THE SILENCE OF
TH-E SILENCE OF
BY ANDRE MAUROIS
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH
BY THURFRIDA WAKE; VERSES
TRANSLATED BY WILFRID JACKSON
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
BY JOHN LANE COMPAKY
IN its original French " Les Silences du
Colonel Bramble " has already run through
seventeen editions, and a second edition has
been called for in English within a very short
time of publication. The success of the book
has naturally brought many inquiries as to
who is this brilliant young author who has thus
suddenly leaped into fame. In answer to in-
quiries, M. "Andre Maurois " writes:
" My family comes from Alsace. My
grandfather had a factory at Strasburg, but
the war of 1870 compelled him to leave Alsace
in order to escape becoming German. He
brought his workmen with him, and set up his
factory at Elbeuf in Normandy, and was
awarded the Legion of Honour for having
thus saved a French industry.
viii Biographical Introduction
" I was born in Normandy in 1885. In
1902 I passed my licence es lettres with hon-
ours equivalent to your ' First ' at Oxford.
In 1903 I received the price d'honneur for Phi-
losophy at the competitive examinations open
to all the Lycees of France for this there is
no English equivalent.
" I wished to write, but I was needed at the
factory as my father was no longer young, so
I gave up my ambitions and spent eight years
in business. During this period I married
Mile, de Sienkievicz, a daughter of Count C.
" Then came the war, and I was appointed
interpreter with the IXth (Scotch) Division.
I was with them at Loos and Ypres, and was
given the D. C. M. Finally I was promoted
to the rank of lieutenant and liaison officer.
I had, however, been ill, and was sent to H.Q.
Lines of Communication at Abbeville, where
I remained until the end of the war.
" Military life gave me sufficient leisure to
enable me to take up again my original tastes,
jeJiographical Introduction ix
and thus, while I was with the Scotch Division,
6 Bramble ' was written. Then at Abbeville I
wrote another book, called c Ni Ange, ni Bete,'
which has recently appeared in France. I
am now engaged on another book."
THE SILENCE OE
THE SILENCE OF COLONEL
/TMIE Highland Brigade was holding its
regimental boxing match in a fine old
Flemish barn in the neighbourhood of
Poperinghe. At the end of the evening the
general got on to a chair and, in a clear, audi-
ble voice, said:
" Gentlemen, we have to-day seen some ex-
cellent fighting, from which I think we may
learn some useful lessons for the more impor-
tant contest that we shall shortly resume; we
must keep our heads, we must keep our eyes
open, we must hit seldom but hit hard, and
>ve must fight to a finish."
Three cheers made the old barn shake.
The motors purred at the door. Colonel
Bramble, Major Parker and the French inter-
preter, Aurelle, went on foot to their billets
among the hops and beetroot fields.
!I4 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
' We are a curious nation," said Major
Parker. ' To interest a Frenchman in a box-
ing match you must tell him that his national
honour is at stake. To interest an English-
man in a war you need only suggest that it
is a kind of a boxing match. Tell us that the
Hun is a barbarian, we agree politely, but tell
us that he is a bad sportsman and you rouse
the British Empire."
" It is the Hun's fault," said the colonel
sadly, " that war is no longer a gentleman's
" We never imagined," continued the ma-
jor, " that such cads existed. Bombing open
towns is nearly as unpardonable as fishing for
trout with a worm, or shooting a fox."
"You must not exaggerate, Parker," said
the colonel calmly. * They are not as bad as
Then he asked Aurelle politely if the box-
ing had amused him.
" I particularly admired, sir, the sporting
discipline of your men. During the boxing,
the Highlanders behaved as if they were in
' The true sporting spirit has always some-
thing religious about it," said the major. " A
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 15
few years ago when the New Zealand football
team visited England, and from the first match
beat the English teams, the country was as
upset as if we had lost this war. Every one
in the streets and trains went about with long
faces. Then the New Zealanders beat Scot-
land, then Ireland; the end of the world had
come! However, there remained the Welsh.
On the day of the match there were one hun-
dred thousand persons on the ground. You
know that the Welsh are deeply religious and
that their national anthem, * Land of our
Fathers,' is also a prayer. When the two
teams arrived the whole crowd, men and
women, exalted and confident, sang this hymn
to God before the battle, and the New Zea-
landers were beaten. Ah, we are a great
" Indeed, yes," said Aurelle, quite overcome,
"you are a great nation." He added, after
a moment's silence, " But you were also quite
right just now when you said you were a
curious nation in some things, and your opin-
ion of people astonishes us sometimes. You
say, * Brown looks an idiot, but he's not, he
played cricket for Essex.' Or, 'At Eton we
took him for a fool, but at Oxford he sur-
1 6 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
prised us. Do you know he is plus four at
golf, and won the high jump? '
" Well? " said the colonel.
" Don't you think, sir, that cleverness "
" I hate clever people Oh, I beg your
' That's very kind of you, sir," said Aurelle.
" Glad you take it like that," growled the
colonel into his moustache.
He spoke seldom and always in short sen-
tences, but Aurelle had learnt to appreciate
his dry and vigorous humour and the charm-
ing smile which often lit up his rugged coun-
" But don't you find yourself, Aurelle,"
went on Major Parker, " that intelligence
is over-estimated with you? It is certainly
more useful to know how to box than how to
write. You would like Eton to go in for noth-
ing but learning? It is just like asking a
trainer of racehorses to be interested in cir-
cus horses. We don't go to school to learn,
but to be soaked in the prejudices of our
class, without which we should be useless and
unhappy. We are like the young Persians
Herodotus talks about, who up to the age of
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 17
twenty only learnt three sciences: to ride, to
shoot and to tell the truth."
"That may be/' said Aurelle, "but just
see, major, how inconsistent you are. You
despise learning and you quote Herodotus.
Better still, I caught you the other day in the
act of reading a translation of Xenophon in
your dug-out. Very few Frenchmen, I assure
' That's quite different," said the major.
4 The Greeks and Romans interest us, not as
objects of study, but as ancestors and sports-
men. We are the direct heirs of the mode of
life of the Greeks and of the Roman Empire.
Xenophon amuses me because he is a perfect
type of the English gentleman, with his hunt-
ing and fishing stories, and descriptions of bat-
tles. When I read in Cicero: 'Scandal in
the Colonial Office. Grave accusations against
Sir Marcus Varro, Governor-General of
Sicily,' you can well understand that that
sounds to me like old faniily history. And
who was your Alcibiades, pray, but a Winston
Churchilf, without the hats?"
The scenery round them was very pictur-
esque: the Mont des Cats, the Mont Rouge,
1 8 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
and the Mont Noir made a framework for
the heavy, motionless clouds of an old Dutch
painting. The peasants' houses with their
weather-beaten, thatched roofs faded into the
surrounding fields ; their dull walls had turned
the colour of yellow clay. The grey shut-
ters bordered with green struck the only vivid
and human note in this kingdom of the
The colonel pointed with his cane to a new
mine crater; but Major Parker, sticking to
his point, went on with his favourite subject:
" The greatest service which sport has ren-
dered us is that it has saved us from intellec-
tual culture. Luckily, one hasn't time for
everything, and golf and tennis cut out read-
ing. We are stupid "
"Nonsense, major!" said Aurelle.
"We are stupid," emphatically repeated
Major Parker, who hated being contradicted.
" and it is a great asset. When we are in
danger we don't notice it, because we don't
reflect; so we keep cool and come out of it
nearly always with honour."
" Always," amended Colonel Bramble with
his Scotch curtness.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 19
And Aurelle, hopping agilely over the enor-
mous ruts by the side of these two Goliaths,
realized more clearly than ever that this war
would end well.
the table," said Colonel Bram-
\i ble to the orderlies. " Bring the rum,
a lemon, some sugar and hot water,
and keep some more boiling. Then tell my
batman to give me the gramophone and the
box of records."
This gramophone, a gift to the Highlanders
from a very patriotic old lady, was the colo-
nel's pride. He had it carried about after him
everywhere and treated it with delicate care,
feeding it every month with fresh records.
"Messiou," he said to Aurelle, "what
would you like? 'The Bing Boys,' 'Destiny
Waltz/ or ' Caruso.' "
Major Parker and Dr. O'Grady solemnly
consigned Edison and all his works to a hotter
place; the padre raised his eyes to heaven.
" Anything you like, sir," said Aurelle, " ex-
cept * Caruso.' '
"Why?" said the colonel. "It's a very
good record, it cost twenty-two shillings. But
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 21
first of all you must hear my dear Mrs. Finzi-
Magrini in ' La Tosca.' Doctor, please reg-
ulate it, I can't see very well Speed 61.
Don't scratch the record, for God's sake ! "
He sank down on his biscuit boxes, ar-
ranged his back comfortably against a heap
of sacks, and shut his eyes. His rugged face
relaxed. The padre and the doctor were
playing chess, and Major Parker was filling
in long returns for brigade headquarters.
Over a little wood, torn to bits by shells, an
aeroplane was sailing home among fleecy
white clouds in a lovely pale-green sky.
Aurelle began a letter.
" Padre," said the doctor, " if you are go-
ing to the division to-morrow, ask them to send
me some blankets for our dead Boches. You
saw the one we buried this morning? The
rats had half eaten him. It's indecent.
Check to the king."
1 Yes," said the padre, " and it's curious
how they always begin at the nose! "
Over their heads a heavy English battery
began to bombard the German line. The
padre smiled broadly.
' There'll be dirty work at the cross roads
to-night," he remarked with satisfaction.
22 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" Padre," said the doctor, " are you not the
minister of a religion of peace and love?"
4 The Master said, my boy, that one
must love one's fellow-man. He never said
that we must love Germans. I take your
The Reverend John Maclvor, an old mili-
tary chaplain, with a face bronzed by Eastern
suns, took to this life of war and horrors with
the enthusiasm of a child. When the men
were in the trenches he visited them every
morning with his pockets bulging with hymn-
books and packets of cigarettes. While rest-
ing behind the lines, he tried his hand at bomb-
ing and deplored the fact that his cloth for-
bade him human targets.
Major Parker suddenly stopped his work to
curse Brass Hats and their absurd questions.
' When I was in the Himalayas at Chitral,"
he said, " some red-hats sent us a ridiculous
scheme for manoeuvres; among other details
the artillery had to cross a rocky defile hardly
wide enough for a very thin man.
" I wired, * Scheme received; send immedi-
ately a hundred barrels of vinegar.' ' Report
yourself to the P.M.O. for mental examina-
tion,' courteously remarked headquarters.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 23
4 Re-read " Hannibal's Campaign," I re-
"You really sent that telegram?" asked
Aurelle. " In the French army you would
have been court-martialled."
" That's because our two nations have not
the same idea of liberty," said the major.
* To us the inalienable rights of man are
humour, sport, and primogeniture."
" At the headquarters of the brigade," said
the padre, " there is a captain who must have
had lessons from you in military correspond-
ence. The other day, as I had no news of one
of my young chaplains who had left us about
a month, I sent a note to the brigade: ' The
Reverend C. Carlisle was invalided on Sep-
tember 12th. I should like to know if he is
better, and if he has been given a new appoint-
ment.' The reply from the hospital said sim-
ply: ' 1. Condition unchanged. 2. Ultimate
destination unknown.' The officer in trans-
mitting it to me had added, ' It is not clear
whether the last paragraph refers to the unit
to which the Rev. C. Carlisle will be eventually
attached, or to his eternal welfare.' '
The Italian air came to an end with a tri-
24 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" What a voice! " said the colonel, opening
his eyes regretfully.
He carefully stopped the record and put it
affectionately in its case.
" Now, messiou, I am going to play ' Des-
tiny Waltz.' "
One could just see outside the Verey lights
gently rising and falling. The padre and the
doctor went on describing their corpses while
carefully manoeuvring the ivory pieces of the
little set of chessmen; the howitzers and
machine-guns broke into the voluptuous
rhythm of the waltz, creating a sort of fan-
tastic symphony highly appreciated by
Aurelle. He continued to write his letter in
" Death is a-f oot ; Fate calls the tune ;
Lose not a minute
Forget! But wear your black till June;
You're charming in it.
I will not have you come with tears,
With roses vain ;
Young life will ask, in coming years,
Your rose again.
Don't be angry with me, dearest, if I descend to
the lowest level of ' romantics ' ; a clergyman and a
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 25
doctor, beside me, are intent on playing the r61c of
the Grave-diggers in Hamlet.
Pity me not, for I shall sleep
Like any child,
And from my changing earth up leap
The grasses wild. '
But if, when summer hours grow few,
And dusk is long,
Your gaze, madonna-calm, should do
Your beauty wrong,
Nor lend that sadness to your face
I cherish yet,
Forget, then, for a little space,
That you forget."
" Do you like my waltz, messiou? " said the
" Very much indeed, sir," said Aurelle sin-
The colonel gave him a grateful smile.
" I'll play it again for you, messiou. Doc-
tor, regulate the gramophone slower, speed
59. Don't scratch the record. For you, this
BOSWELL. " Why then, sir, did he talk so? "
JOHNSON. "Why, sir, to make you answer as you
THE batteries were asleep; Major Parker
was answering questions from the bri-
gade; the orderlies brought the rum,
sugar and boiling water; the colonel put the
gramophone to speed 61 and Dr. O'Grady
talked about the Russian Revolution.
" It is unprecedented," said he, " for the
men who made a revolution to remain in power
after it is over. Yet one still finds revolu-
tionaries: that proves how badly history is
" Parker," said the colonel, " pass the port."
" Ambition," said Aurelle, " is after all not
the only motive that inspires men to action.
One can be a revolutionary from hatred of a
tyrant, from jealousy, or even from the love
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 27
Major Parker abandoned his papers.
" I admire France very much, Aurelle, espe-
cially since this war ; but one thing shocks me
in your country, if you will allow me to speak
plainly, and that is your jealousy of equality.
When I read the history of your Revolution
I am sorry I was not there to kick Robespierre
and that horrible fellow Hebert. And your
sans-culottes. Well, that makes me long to
dress up in purple satin and gold lace and
walk about the Place de la Concorde."
The doctor allowed a particularly acute
attack of hysteria on the part of Madame
Finzi-Magrini to pass, and went on:
" The love of humanity is a pathological
state of a sexual origin which often appears
at the age of puberty in nervous and clever
people. The excess of phosphorus in the sys-
tem must get out somewhere. As for hatred
of a tyrant, that is a more human sentiment
which has full play in time of war, when force
and the mob are one. Emperors must be mad
fools to decide on declaring wars which sub-
stitute an armed nation for their Praetorian
Guards. That idiocy accomplished, despotism
of course produces revolution until terrorism
leads to the inevitable reaction."
28 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
' You condemn us then, doctor, to oscillate
between rebellion and a coup d'etat? "
" No," said the doctor, " because the Eng-
lish people, who have already given the world
Stilton cheese and comfortable chairs, have in-
vented for our benefit the Parliamentary sys-
tem. Our M.P.'s arrange rebellions and
coups d'etat for us, which leaves the rest of
the nation time to play cricket. The Press
completes the system by enabling us to take
our share in these tumults by proxy. All these
things form a part of modern comfort and in
a hundred years' time every man, white, yel-
low, red or black, will refuse to inhabit a room
without hot water laid on, or a country with-
out a Parliament."
" I hope you are wrong," said Major Par-
ker. " I hate politicians, and I want, after
the War, to go and live in the East, because
nobody out there pays any attention to a gov-
ernment of babblers."
" My dear major, why the devil do you mix
your personal feelings with these questions?
Politics are controlled by laws as necessary as
the movements of the stars. Are you an-
noyed that there are dark nights because you
happen to prefer moonlight? Humanity lies
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 29
on an uncomfortable bed. When the sleeper
aches too much he turns over, that is a war
or an insurrection. Then he goes to sleep
again for a few centuries. All that is quite
natural and happens without much suffering,
if one does not mix up any moral ideas with
it. Attacks of cramp are not virtues. But 1
each change finds, alas, its prophets who, from
love of humanity, as Aurelle says, put this
miserable globe to fire and sword."
" That's very well said, doctor," said Au-
relle, "but I return the compliment; if those
are your sentiments, why do you take the trou-
ble to belong to a party? Because you are a
" Doctor," said the colonel, " pass, the port."
"Ah," said the doctor, "that's because I
would rather be persecutor than persecuted.
You must know how to recognize the arrival
of these periodical upheavals and prepare.
This war will bring socialism, that is to say,
the total sacrifice of the aristocrat to the Levia-
than. This in itself is neither a blessing nor a
misfortune: it is a cramp. Let us then turn
over with a good grace, as long as we feel we
shall be more comfortable on the other side."
4 That's a perfectly absurd theory," said
3<3 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Major Parker, angrily sticking out his square
chin, " and if you adopt it, doctor, you must
give up medicine! Why try and stop the
course of diseases? They are also, according
to you, periodic and necessary upheavals. But
if you pretend to fight against tuberculosis do
not deny me the right to attack universal suf-
At this moment a R.A.M.C. sergeant en-
tered and asked Dr. O'Grady to come and see
a wounded man: Major Parker remained mas-
ter of the situation. The colonel, who had a
horror of arguments, seized the opportunity
to talk about something else.
" Messiou," he said, " what is the displace-
ment of one of your largest cruisers? "
" Sixty thousand tons, sir," hazarded
This knock-out blow put the colonel out of
action, and Aurelle asked Major Parker why
he objected to universal suffrage.
" But don't you see, my dear Aurelle, that
it is the most extravagant idea that humanity
has ever conceived? Our political system will
be considered more monstrous than slavery in
a thousand years. One man, one vote, what-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 3*
ever the man is! Do you pay the same price
for a good horse as for a erock? "
" Have you ever heard the immortal rea-
soning of our Courteline? 'Why should I
pay twelve francs for an umbrella when I can
get a glass of beer for six sous? '
"Equal rights for men!" continued the
major vehemently. " Why not equal courage
and equal intelligence while you are about it? "
Aurelle loved the major's impassioned and
pleasant harangues and, to keep the discussion
going, said that he did not see how one could
refuse a people the right to choose their
"To control them, Aurelle, yes; but to
choose them, never ! An aristocracy cannot be
elected. It is or it isn't. Why, if I were to
attempt to choose the Commander-in-Chief or
the Superintendent of Guy's Hospital, I
should be shut up ; but, if I wish to have a voice
in the election of the Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer or the First Lord of the Admiralty,
I'm a good citizen! "
' That is not quite correct, major. Minis-
ters are not elected. Mind, I agree with you
that our political system is imperfect; but so
32 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
are all human affairs. And then, e La pire
des Chambres vaut mieux que la meilleure des
" I piloted round London lately," replied
the major, " an Arab chief who honoured me
with his friendship, and when I had shown him
the House of Commons and explained what
went on there, he remarked, ' It must give you
a lot of trouble cutting off those six hundred
heads when you are not pleased with the
".Messiou," said the colonel, exasperated,
" \ am going to play ' Destiny Waltz/ for
Major Parker remained silent while the
waltz unrolled its rhythmic phrases, but he
ruminated over his old resentment against that
" horrible fellow Hebert " and, as soon as the
record had ground out its final notes, he
started a new attack on Aurelle.
"What advantage," he said, "could the
French have found in changing their govern-
ment eight times in a century? Revolutions
have become a national institution with you.
In England, it would be impossible. If a
crowd collected at Westminster and made a
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 33
disturbance, the policeman would tell them to
go away and they would do so."
" What an idea! " said Aurelle, who did not
like Revolutions, but who thought he ought
to defend an old French lady against this hot-
headed Saxon. " You must not forget, major,
that you also cut off your King's head. No
policeman intervened to save Charles Stuart,
as far as I know."
" The assassination of Charles I," said the
major, " was the sole work of Oliver Crom-
well; now Oliver was a very good cavalry colo-
nel, but he knew nothing of the real feelings
of the English people, which they showed
pretty plainly at the time of the Restoration.
" Cromwell's head, which had been em-
balmed, was stuck on a pike on the top of
Westminster Hall. One stormy night the
wind broke the shaft of the pike and the head
rolled to the feet of the sentry. He took it
home and hid it in the chimney of his house,
where it remained until his death. It passed
through various hands till it came into the
possession of a friend of mine, and I have
often sat at tea opposite the head of the Pro-
tector still on its broken pike. One could
easily recognize the wart which he had on his
34 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
forehead and there still remains a lock of chest-
" Humph," grunted the colonel, at last in-
terested in the conversation.
:< Besides," continued the major, " the Eng-
lish Revolution does not compare in any way
with the French one: it did not weaken the
ruling classes. As a matter of fact, all the
bad business of 1789 was caused by Louis
XIV. Instead of leaving your country the
strong armour of a landed gentry he made
his nobles into the ridiculous puppets of Ver-
sailles, whose 3ole business was to hand him
his coat and his waistcoat. In destroying the
prestige of a class which should be the natural
supporters of the monarchy, he ruined it be-
yond repair, and more's the pity."
" It is very easy for you to criticize us,"
said Aurelle. ' We made our Revolution
for you: the most important event in English
history is the taking of the Bastile, and well
you know it."
:< Bravo, messiou," said the colonel, " stick
up for your country. One ought always to
stick up for one's country. Now please pass
the port. I am going to play you The
Somewhere m France.
Singing, the soldiers go their way :
** Stow your troubles inside your kit."
Such rain and wind, that you'd rather stay
Indoors, than walk out with your girl in it.
Singing, the soldiers go their way:
I'm making you verses so here I sit ;
Singing, the soldiers go their way :
" Stow your troubles inside your kit."
Here is the orderly bringing, let's say,
Last week's papers, perhaps a chit ;
Stale chatter of old political play,
" Stow your troubles inside your kit."
All we can do, though the year is at May,
Best we can furnish by way of wit ;
Singing, the soldiers go their way:
" Stow your troubles inside your kit."
Rain on the window, beating like spray,
Storms an accompaniment, noisily fit,
To some prelude of Wagner's forgotten day,
" Stow your troubles inside your kit."
36 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Who knows but to-morrow a howitzer may
Give me uncivil notice to quit.
But Satan may ask me to wet my clay
So " stow your troubles inside your kit : "
Singing, the soldiers go their way.
GREY dawn is breaking over the spongy
plain. To-day will be the same as yes-
terday, to-morrow like to-day. The
doctor will wave his arms and say, " Tres triste,
messiou," and he will not know what is sad, no
more shall I. Then he will give me a humor-
ous lecture in a style between Bernard Shaw
and the Bible.
The padre will write letters, play patience
and go out riding. The guns will thunder,
Boches will be killed, some of our men too.
We shall lunch off bully beef and boiled pota-
toes, the beer will be horrible, and the colonel
will say to me, " Biere fran9aise no bonne,
In the evening, after a dinner of badly
cooked mutton, with mint sauce, and boiled
potatoes, the inevitable gramophone will ap-
pear. We shall have " The Arcadians," " The
Mikado," then "Destiny Waltz" "pour
vous, messiou " and " Mrs, Finzi-Magrini "
for the colonel, and finally " The Lancashire
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 37
Ramble." Unfortunately for me, the first
time that I heard this circus tune I imitated a
juggler catching balls in time to the music.
This little comedy henceforth took its place in
the traditions of the Mess, and if this evening
at the first notes of the " Ramble " I should
forget to play my part the colonel will say,
" Allons, messiou, allons," pretending to jug-
gle, but I know my duty and I shall not for-
get; for Colonel Bramble only cares for fa-
miliar scenes and fine old crusted jokes.
His favourite number is a recitation by
O'Grady of " Going on leave." When he is
in a bad temper, when one of his old friends
has been made a brigadier-general, or been
given a C.B., this recitation is the only thing
that can make him smile. He knows it by
heart and, like the children, stops the doctor
if he misses a sentence or alters a reply.
" No, doctor, no ; the Naval officer said to
you, 'When you hear four loud short whis-
tles, it means that the ship has been torpe-
doed,' and you replied, * And what if the tor-
pedo carries away the whistle? '
The doctor, having found his place, goes on.
Parker, too, one day found a remark which
ever afterwards had a brilliant success. He
38 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
got it out of a letter that a chaplain had writ-
ten to the Times. " The life of the soldier,"
wrote this excellent man, "is one of great
hardship; not infrequently mingled with mo-
ments of real danger."
The colonel thoroughly enjoys the uncon-
scious humour of this remark, and would quote
it whenever a shell scattered gravel over him.
But his great resource, if the conversation
bores him, is to attack the padre on his two
weak points: bishops and Scotchmen.
The padre, who comes from the Highlands,
is madly patriotic. He is convinced that it is
only Scotchmen who play the game and who
are really killed.
" If history told the truth," he says, " this
war would not be called the European War,
but the war between Scotland and Germany."
The colonel is Scotch himself, but he is fair,
and every time he finds in the papers the cas-
ualty lists of the Irish Guards or the Welsh
Fusiliers he reads them out in a loud voice to
the padre, who, to keep his end up, maintains
that the Welsh Fusiliers and Irish Guards are
recruited in Aberdeen. This is his invariable
All this may appear rather puerile to
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 39
my friend, but these childish things are the
only bright spots in our boring, bombarded
existence. Yes, these wonderful men have re-
mained children in many ways ; they have the
fresh outlook, and the inordinate love of
games, and our rustic shelter often seems to
me like a nursery of heroes.
But I have profound faith in them; their
profession of empire-builders has inspired
them with high ideals of the duty of the white
man. The colonel and Parker are " Sahibs "
whom nothing on earth would turn from the
path they have chosen. To despise danger,
to stand firm under fire, is not an act of cour-
age in their eyes it is simply part of their
education. If a small dog stands up to a big
one they say gravely, " He is a gentleman."
A true gentleman, you see, is very nearly
the most sympathetic type which evolution has
produced among the pitiful group of creatures
who are at this moment making such a noise
in the world. Amid the horrible wickedness
of the species, the English have established an
oasis of courtesy and phlegm. I love them.
I must add that it is a very foolish error
to imagine that they are less intelligent than
ourselves, in spite of the delight ray friend
4 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Major Parker pretends to take in affirming
the contrary. The truth is that their intelli-
gence follows a different method from ours.
Far removed from our standard of rationalism
and the pedantic sentiment of the Germans,
they delight in a vigorous common sense and
all absence of system. Hence a natural and
simple manner which makes their sense of
humour still more delightful.
But I see, from the window, my horse wait-
ing for me; and I must go round to the surly
farmers and get some straw for the quarter-
master, who is trying to build stables. But
you are furnishing boudoirs, and mind you
choose, O Amazon, soft, oriental silks.
In your salon, style "Directory "
(Lavender-blue and lemon-yellow)
Ancient armchairs sit, hail-fellow,
In a fashion contradictory,
With a sofa lacking history
(Lavender-blue and lemon-yellow).
To our Merveilleuses notorious
(Lavender-blue and lemon-yellow)
Dandies striped with chevrons mellow
Shall proclaim a day victorious,
Decked in dolmans all-vainglorious
(Lavender-blue and lemon-yellow).
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 41
Walls severe, as bare as a church
(Lavender-blue and lemon-yellow),
May wait awhile the brutal bellow
Of some First-Consul, who may lurch
Upon their calm of days memorial
With his visage dictatorial
(Lavender eyed and skin of yellow).
"Are you a poet?" the colonel asked me
doubtfully, when he saw me writing lines of
I denied the soft impeachment.
IT had been raining for four days. The
heavy raindrops played a monotonous tat-
too on the curved roof of the tent. Out-
side in the field the grass had disappeared un-
der yellow mud, in which the men's footsteps
sounded like the smacking of a giant's lips.
" ' And God looked upon the earth, and
hehold, it was corrupt,'" recited the padre;
4 and God said to Noah, Make thee an ark
of gopher wood ; rooms shalt thou make in the
ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with
* The same day were all the fountains of
the great deep broken up, and the windows of
heaven were opened,' " continued the doctor.
" The Flood," he added, " was a real event,
for its description is common to all oriental
mythology. No doubt the Euphrates had
burst its banks ; that's why the Ark was driven
into the interior and came to rest on a hill.
Similar catastrophes often occur in Mesppo-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 43
tamia and in India, but are rare in Belgium."
" The cyclone of 1876 killed 215,000 people
in Bengal," said the colonel. " Messiou, send
round the port, please."
The colonel loved .statistics, to the great mis-
fortune of Aurelle, who, quite incapable of
remembering figures, was interrogated every
day on the number of inhabitants in a village,
the strength of the Serbian army, or the initial
velocity of the French bullet. He foresaw
with terror that the colonel was going to ask
him the average depth of rain in feet and
inches in Flanders, and he hastened to create
" I found in Poperinghe," he said, showing
the book he was reading, " this very curious
old volume. It is a description of England
and Scotland by the Frenchman, Etienne
Perlin, Paris, 1558."
"Humph! What does this Mr. Perlin
say?" asked the colonel, who had the same
respect for ancient things as he had for old
Aurelle opened the book at hazard and
' After dinner, the cloth is withdrawn
and the ladies retire. The table is of beau-
441 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
tif ul glossy Indian wood, and stands of the
same wood hold the bottles. The name of
each wine is engraved on a silver plate which
hangs by a little chain round the neck of the
bottle. The guests each choose the wine they
like and drink it as seriously as if they were
doing penance, while proposing the health of
eminent personages or the fashionable beau-
ties ; this is what is known as a toast.' '
" I like * fashionable beauties,' ' ' said the
doctor. " Perhaps Aurelle will take to drink-
ing port, now he can pour libations to Gaby
Deslys or Gladys Cooper."
" There are toasts for each day in the week,"
said the colonel, " Monday, our men; Tuesday,
ourselves ; Wednesday, our swords ; Thursday,
sport; Friday, our religion; Saturday, sweet-
hearts and wives; Sunday, absent friends and
ships at sea."
Aurelle went on reading aloud:
* The toasts are of barbaric origin, and I
have been told that the Highlanders of Scot-
land, a semi-savage folk who live in a state
of perpetual feud' "
:c Listen to that, padre," said the colonel.
" Read it again, messiou, for the padre. ' I
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 45
have been told that the Highlanders of Scot-
* A semi-savage folk who live in a state of
perpetual feud, have kept to the original char-
acter of this custom. To drink the health of
anyone is to ask him to guard you while you
drink and cannot defend yourself; and the
person to whom you drink replies, " I pledge
you," which means in their language, " I
guarantee your safety." Then he draws his
dagger, places the point on the table and pro-
tects you until your glass is empty.' '
"That's why," said Major Parker, *' the
pewter pots that they give for golf prizes have
always got glass bottoms through which one
can see the dagger of the assassin."
" Send round the port, messiou, I want to
drink the padre's health in a second glass to
hear him reply, * I pledge you,' and to see him
put the point of his dagger on the table."
" I've only got a Swiss knife," said the
* That's good enough," said the colonel.
' This theory of the origin of toasts is very
probable," said the doctor. * We are always
repeating ancestral signs which are quite use-
46 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
less now. When a great actress wants to ex-
press hate she draws back her charming lips
and shows her canine teeth, an unconscious
sign of cannibalism. We shake hands with a
friend to prevent him using it to strike us,
and we take off our hats because our ancestors
used to humbly offer their heads, to the big-
wigs of those days, to be cut off."
At that moment there was a loud crack, and
Colonel Bramble fell backwards with a crash.
One of the legs of his chair had broken. The
doctor and Parker helped him up, while
Aurelle and the padre looked on in fits of
4 There's a good example of an ancestral
survival," said the major, kindly intervening
to save Aurelle, who was trying in vain to stop
laughing. " I imagine that one laughs at a
fall because the death of a man was one of the
most amusing sights for our ancestors. It
delivered them from an adversary and dimin-
ished the number of those who shared the food
and the females."
" Now we know you, messiou," said the
" A French philosopher," said Aurelle, who
had by this time recovered, " has constructed
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 47
quite a different theory of laughter: he is
called Bergson and "
" I have heard of him," said the padre ; " he's
a clergyman, isn't he? "
" I have a theory about laughter," said the
doctor, " which is much more edifying than
yours, major. I think it is simply produced
by a feeling of horror, immediately succeeded
by a feeling of relief. A young monkey who
is devoted to the old father of the tribe sees
him slip on a banana skin, he fears an accident
and his chest swells with fright, then he discov-
ers that it's nothing and all his muscles pleas-
antly relax. That was the first joke, and it
explains the convulsive motions in laughing.
Aurelle is shaken physically because he is
shaken morally by two strong motives: his
anxious affection and respect for the colo-
" Ugh," grunted the colonel.
" And the consoling certainty that he is not
' I wish you would talk about something
else," said the colonel. " Read a little more
of the book, messiou."
Aurelle turned over some pages.
" c Other nations,' " he read, " ' accuse the
48 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
English of incivility because they arrive and
depart without touching their hats, and with-
out that flow of compliments which are com-
mon to the French and Italians. But those
who judge thus see things in a false light.
The English idea is that politeness does not
consist in gestures or words which are often
hypocritical and deceptive, but in being cour-
teously disposed to other people. They have
their faults like every nation, but, considering
everything, I am sure that the more one knows
them the more one esteems and likes them.' '
" I like old Mr. Perlin," said the colonel.
" Do you agree with him, messiou? "
" The whole of France now agrees with him,
sir," said Aurelle warmly.
" You are biased, Aurelle," said Major
Parker, " because you are getting quite Eng-
lish yourself. You whistle in your bath, you
drink whisky and are beginning to like argu-
ments ; if you could only manage to eat toma-
toes and underdone cutlets for breakfast you
would be perfect."
" If you don't mind, major, I would rather
remain French," said Aurelle. ;< Besides, I
never knew that whistling in one's bath was
an English rite."
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 49
" So much so," said the doctor, " that I have
arranged to have carved on my tombstone:
' Here lies a British subject who never whis-
tled in his bath or tried to be an amateur de-
BRITISH conversation is like a game of
cricket or a boxing match ; personal allu-
sions are forbidden like hitting below the
belt, and anyone who loses his temper is dis-
Aurelle met at the Lennox Mess veterina-
ries and generals, tradesmen and dukes. Ex-
cellent whisky was provided and the guests en-
tertained in a friendly way without boring
them with too much attention.
" It rains a lot in your country," said a
major in the Engineers who sat next him one
" So it does in England," said Aurelle.
" I intend," said the major, " when this
damned war is over, to leave the army and
go and live in New Zealand."
c You have friends there? "
" Oh, no, but the salmon fishing is very
" Bring your rod over here while we are
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 51
resting, major, the pond is full of enormous
' I never fish for pike," said the major, " he
is not a gentleman. When he sees he is
caught he gives up; the salmon fights to the
end, even without hope. A thirty-pound fel-
low will sometimes fight two hours; that's
something like, isn't it ? "
" Admirable ! " said Aurelle. " And what
about trout? "
' The trout is a lady," said the major;
" you must deceive her ; but it is not easy,
because she is a judge of flies. And you," he
added politely, after a short silence, "what
do you do in peace time? "
" I write a little," said Aurelle, " and I am
trying for a degree."
" No, no; I mean what is your sport fish-
ing, hunting, golf, polo?"
" To tell the truth," acknowledged Aurelle,
' I am not much good at sport. I am not
very strong and "
" I'm sorry to hear that, 5 ' said the major,
but he turned to his other neighbour and both-
ered no more about the Frenchman.
Aurelle was thrown back on the Veterinary
Captain Clarke sitting on his left, who had
52 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
up to then been eating and drinking without
saying a word.
" It rains a lot in your country," said Cap-
" So it does in England," said Aurelle.
"I intend," said Clarke, "when this
damned war is over to go back to Santa
Aurelle asked if the captain's family lived
in the Antilles.
He was horrified.
" Oh, no! I belong to a Staffordshire fam-
ily. I went out there quite by chance; I was
travelling for pleasure and my boat touched
at Santa Lucia; I found the heat very agree-
able and I stayed there. I bought some land
very cheap and I grow cocoa."
" And it does not bore you? "
" No, the nearest white man is six miles off,
and the coast of the island is excellent for sail-
ing. What more could I do at home? When
I go to England for three months' holiday, I
spend a week at my old home, then I go off
in a yacht alone. I have been all round your
Brittany coast ; it is delightful because the cur-
rents are so difficult and your charts are so
good; but it is not warm enough. At Santa
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 53
Lucia I can smoke cigarettes in my pyjamas
on my veranda."
He slowly swallowed his port and con-
" No, I don't like Europe too much work.
But, out there, there is enough food for every-
The colonel at the other end of the table
was holding forth about India, the white
ponies of his regiment, the native servants
with their complicated names and varied
duties, and the lax life in the Hills. Parker
described hunting on an elephant.
" You stand up on your animal firmly tied
on by one leg, and when the elephant gallops
you fly into space: it's really most exciting."
" I'll take your word for it," said Aurelle.
" Yes, but if you try it," said the colonel
solicitously to Aurelle, " don't forget to slide
off by the tail as quickly as you can if the ele-
phant comes to marshy ground. His instinct,
when the ground gives way beneath him, is to
seize you in his trunk and put you down
in front of him to have something solid to
" I'll remember, sir," said Aurelle.
" In the Malay States," said the major of
54 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Engineers, " the wild elephants wander about
the main roads. I often met them when I was
on my motor-bike ; if your face or your clothes
annoy them they pick you off and smash your
head by treading on it. But except for that
they are quite inoffensive."
A long discussion on the most vulnerable
part of an elephant followed. The padre
showed his knowledge by explaining how the
anatomy of the Indian elephant differed from
that of the African species.
" Padre," said Aurelle, " I always knew you
were a sportsman; but have you ever really
done any big game shooting? "
" What! my dear fellow? Big game? I've
killed pretty nearly everything a hunter can
kill, from the elephant and rhinoceros to the
lion and tiger. I've never told you the story
of my first lion?"
" Never, padre," said the doctor, " but you
are going to now."
" Padre," said the colonel, " I should like to
hear your stories, but I make one condition:
some one must start the gramophone for me.
I want my dear ' Mrs. Finzi-Magrini ' to-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 55
"Oh, no, sir, for pity's sake! I'll let you
have a rag-time if you absolutely must grind
that damned machine."
" Not at all, doctor, you aren't going to get
off so easily. I insist on ' Finzi-Magrini.'
Come, Aurelle, like a good chap, and remem-
ber, speed 65, and don't scratch my record.
Padre, you may now begin the story of your
" I was at Johannesburg and very much
wanted to join a sporting club, as a number
of the members were friends of mine. But
the rules did not admit any candidate who had
not at least killed a lion. So I set out with
a nigger loaded with several rifles, and that
evening lay in wait with him near a water-
hole where a lion was accustomed to come and
" Half an hour before midnight I heard the
crashing of branches and over the top of a
bush appeared the head of a lion. He had
winded us and looked our way. I aimed and
fired. The head disappeared behind the bush,
but appeared again after a minute. A sec-
ond shot, the same result. The brute got
frightened, hid his head and then put it up
56 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
again. I remained quite cool, I had sixteen
shots to fire in my various rifles. Third shot,
same old game; fourth shot, ditto.
" I got unnerved and shot badly, so that
after the fifteenth shot the beast put up his
head again. ' Miss that one, him eat us,' said
the nigger. I took a long breath, aimed care-
fully and fired. The animal fell. One second
two ten he did 'not reappear. I waited
a little longer, then I rushed out followed by
my nigger, and guess, messiou, what I found
"The lion, padre."
"Sixteen lions, my boy, and every one had
a bullet in its eye! That's how I made my
"By Jove, padre! Who says the Scotch
have no imagination? "
" Now listen to a true story. It was in
India that I first killed a woman. Yes, yes,
a woman! I had set out tiger-shooting when
in passing through a village, buried in the jun-
gle, an old native stopped me. ' Sahib, sahib,
a bear ! * And he pointed out a moving black
shape up a tree. I took aim quickly and fired.
The mass fell heavily with a crashing of
branches, and I discovered an old woman,
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 57
whom I had demolished while she was picking
fruit. Another old nigger, the husband, over-
whelmed me with abuse. They went and
fetched the native policeman. I had to buy
off the family; it cost a terrible lot, at least
" The story soon got about for twenty miles
around, and for several weeks I could not go
through a village without two or three old men
rushing at me and crying, ' Sahib, sahib, a bear
up the tree ! ' I need hardly tell you that they
had just made their wives climb up."
Then Parker described a crocodile hunt, and
Captain Clarke gave some details about
sharks in Bermuda, which are not dangerous
as long as people take the precaution of jump-
ing into the water in company. The colonel,
meanwhile, played " The March of the Lost
Brigade." in slow time. The New Zealand
major put some eucalyptus leaves in the fire
so that the smell might remind' him of the
Bush. Aurelle, rather dazed, fuddled with
the Indian sun and the scent of wild animals,
at last realized that this world is a great park
laid out by a gardener god for the gentlemen
of the United Kingdoms.
Since you are kept indoors beside the ember,
Since you despise the novels on your lists,
Since, happily, no happy man exists,
And since this August wickedly persists
To play December,
I scribble you these lines sans form or feet,
Sans rhyme and reason, which one more deplores,
Which I shall call, when stand my works complete,
" Talk with a lady who was kept indoors
By rain and sleet."
I know not if your sentiment's the same,
But when I idly sit, in idle dreams,
And the rain* falls upon my heart, it seems . . ,
" A URELLE," said the doctor, " this time
/"\ you are writing verses ; deny it if you
can. You are taken red-handed."
"M-ph!" grunted the colonel scornfully,
but with indulgence.
" I own to it, doctor, but what then? Is it
contrary to King's Regulations?"
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 59
" No," said the doctor, " but I'm surprised.
I have always been convinced that the French
cannot be a nation of poets. Poetry is rhymed
foolishness. Now you are not a fool, and you
have no sense of rhythm."
" You do not know our poets," said Aurelle,
annoyed. " Have you read Musset, Hugo,
" I know Hugo," said the Colonel. " When
I commanded the troops in Guernsey I was
shown his house. I also tried to read his book,
"The Toilers of the Sea/ but it was too
The arrival of Major Parker, pushing in
front of him two boyish-looking captains, put
an end to this conference.
" Here are young Gibbons and Warburton.
You must give them a cup of tea before send-
ing them back to their companies. I found
them sitting on the side of the Zillebeke Road,
no doubt waiting for a taxi. These London
people will expect anything."
Gibbons was returning from leave, and
Warburton, a dark Welshman very like a
Frenchman, who had been wounded two
months before in Artois, was rejoining the
Lennox after sick leave.
60 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" Aurelle, give me a cup of tea like a good
fellow," said Major Parker. " Oh, the milk
first, I beseech you! And ask for a whisky
and soda to wake up Captain Gibbons, will
you? He looks as if he had just come out of
his wigwam and had not dug up his war
" It's such a horrible change," said Gibbons.
" Yesterday morning I was still in my garden
in a real English valley, with hedges and trees.
Everything was clean and fresh and cared-for
and happy. My pretty sisters-in-law were
playing tennis. We were all dressed in white,
and here I am suddenly transported into this
dreadful mangled wood among you band of
assassins. When do you think this damned
war will be over? I am such a peaceable man!
I prefer church bells to guns and the piano to
a Hotchkiss. My one ambition is to live in
the country with my plump little wife and a
lot of plump little children." And, raising his
glass, he concluded, " I drink to the end of
these follies, arid to hell with the Boches who
brought us here ! "
But keen Warburton cut in immediately.
" I like the War. It is only War that gives
us a normal existence. What do you do in
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 61
peace-time? You stay at home; you don't
know what to do with your time; you argue
with your parents, and your wife if you
have one. Everyone thinks you are an insuf-
ferable egotist and so you are. The War
comes; you only go home every five or six
months. You are a hero, and, what women
appreciate much more, you are a change. You
know stories that have never been published.
You've seen strange men and terrible things.
Your father, instead of telling his friends that
you are embittering the end of his life, intro-
duces you to them as an oracle. These old
men consult you on foreign politics. If you
are married, your wife is prettier than ever;
if you are not, all the girls lay siege to
4 You like the country? Well, you live in
a wood here. You love your wife? But who
was it said that it is easier to die for the woman
one loves than to live with her? For myself
I prefer a Hotchkiss to the piano, and the
chatter of my men to that of the old ladies
who come to tea at my home. No, Gibbons,
War is a wonderful epoch," and, holding up
his glass, he said, " I drink to the gentle Hun
who procures these pleasures for us."
62 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Then he described his time at the Duchess'
" I thought I was with the Queen of the
Fairies. We got everything we wanted with-
out asking for it. When our fiancees were
coming to see us, we were propped up with
cushions to match the colour of our eyes. A
fortnight before I could get up they brought
twelve brightly coloured dressing-gowns for
me to choose wilich one I would wear the first
time I was allowed out of bed. I chose a red
and green one, which was hung up near me,
and I was in such a hurry to put it on that I
got well three days quicker. There was a
Scotch captain with such a beautiful wife that
all the patients' temperatures went up when
she came to see him. They ended by making
a special door for her near her husband's bed,
so that she need not walk down the whole
ward. Oh, I hope I shall be wounded soon!
Doctor, promise to send me to the Duchess'
But Gibbons, with eyes still full of tender
memories of home, would not be consoled.
The padre, who was wise and kind, made him
describe the last revue at the Palace, and com-
placently discussed the legs and shoulders of
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 63
a " sweet little thing/' The colonel got out
his best records and played " Mrs. Finzi-
Magrini " and " Destiny Waltz " to his guests.
Gibbons sat with his head in his hands during
the waltz. The colonel was going to chaff
him mildly about his melancholy thoughts, but
the little captain got up at the end of the tune
" I had better be off before dark." And off
" Silly ass," said Parker, after a pause.
The colonel and the padre agreed. Aurelle
" Aurelle, my friend," said Dr. O'Grady,
" if you want to be thought anything of
amongst Englishmen, you must make yourself
see their point of view. They don't care for
melancholy people, and have a contempt for
sentiment. This applies to love as well as to
patriotism and religion. If you want the colo-
nel to despise you, stick a flag in your tunic.
If you want the padre to treat you with con-
tempt, give him a letter to censor full of pious
rubbish; if you want to make Parker sick,
weep over a photograph. They spend their
youth hardening their skins and their hearts.
They fear neither physical blows nor the blows
64 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
of fate. They look upon exaggeration as the
worst of vices, and coldness as a sign of aris-
tocracy. When they are very miserable, they
smile. When they are very happy, they say
nothing at all. And au fond John Bull is ter-
ribly sentimental, which explains everything."
" All that is perfectly true, Aurelle," said
Parker, " but you must not say it. The doc-
tor is a confounded Irishman who cannot hold
Upon which, the doctor and Major Parker
began a discussion on the Irish question in
their usual amusingly sarcastic manner. The
colonel looked in his box of records for
' When Irish eyes are smiling," then wisely
and courteously interrupted them.
" And so, Aurelle," concluded Major Par-
ker, "you see us poor Englishmen searching
hard for the solution of a problem when there
isn't one. You may think that the Irish want
certain definite reforms, and that they will be
happy and contented the day they get them;
but not at all. What amuses them is discus-
sion itself, plotting in theory. They play with
the idea of Home Rule; if we gave it them,
the game would be finished and they would in-
vent another, probably a more dangerous one."
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 65
" Go to Ireland after the War, messiou,"
said the colonel, " it's an extraordinary coun-
try. Every one is mad. You can commit the
worst crimes it doesn't matter. Nothing
" The worst crimes? " said Aurelle. " Oh,
I say, sir!"
" Oh, yes, anything you like the most un-
heard-of things. You can go out hunting in
brown breeches, fish in your neighbour's sal-
mon river nothing will happen; no one will
take the smallest notice of you."
"I do believe," said Aurelle, "that I am
beginning to understand the Irish question."
" I will finish your education," said the doc-
tor. " A year before the War a Liberal M.P.
who was visiting Ireland said to an old peas-
ant, c Well, my friend, we are soon going to
give you Home Rule! ' * God save us, your
honour,' said the man, * do not do that.'
' What? ' said the astonished Member. ' You
don't want Home Rule now?' 'Your hon-
our,' said the man, ' I'll tell you. You are a
good Christian, your honour? It's to heaven
you want to go? So do I, but we do not want
to go there to-night.' "
CHOBUS : " What, Jupiter not so strong as these
goddesses ? "
PROMETHEUS : " Yes, even he cannot escape destiny."
WEN young Lieutenant Warburton,
emporarily commanding B Com-
pany of the Lennox Highlanders,
took over his trench, the captain he came to
relieve said to him:
' This part is not too unhealthy; they are
only thirty yards off, but they are tame
Bodies. All they ask is to be left alone."
" We will wake things up a bit," said War-
burton to his men, when the peaceable warrior
When wild beasts are too well fed, they
become domesticated; but a few well-directed
rockets will make them savage again. In vir-
tue of this principle, Warburton, having pro-
vided himself with a star shell, instead of send-
ing it straight up, fired it horizontally towards
the German trenches.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 67
A distracted Saxon sentry cried, " Liquid-
fire attack! " The Boche machine-guns began
to bark. Warburton, delighted, replied with
grenades. The enemy called the artillery to
its assistance. A telephone call, a hail of
shrapnel, and immediate reprisals by the Brit-
ish big guns.
The next day the German communique
said : " An attack by the British under cover
of liquid-fire at H was completely checked
by the combined fire of our infantry and
0275 Private Scott, H. J., who served his
King and country under the strenuous War-
burton, disapproved heartily of his officer's
heroic methods. Not that he was a coward,
but the War had taken him by surprise when
he had just married a charming girl, and, as
Captain Gadsby of the Pink Hussars says, " a
married man is only half a man." Scott
counted the days he spent in the trenches, and
this one was the first of ten, and his chief was
The god who guards lovers intervened the
next day by the simple means of a scrap of
paper asking for a man from the regiment,
mechanic by trade, to look after a machine
68 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
a t p for disinfecting clothes. P - was
a pretty little town at least eight miles from
the front line, rather deserted by the inhabi-
tants on account of marmites, but all the same
a safe and comfortable retreat for a troglodyte
of the trenches.
0275 Private Scott, mechanic by trade, put
his name down. His lieutenant abused him;
his colonel recommended him; and his general
nominated him. An old London omnibus
painted a military grey took him away to his
new life, far from Warburton and his perils.
The machine which Scott had to look after
was in the yard of a college, an old building
covered with ivy; and Abbe Hoboken, the
principal, received him, when he arrived, as
if he were a general.
"Are you a Catholic, my son?" he asked
him in the English of the college.
Luckily for Scott, he did not understand,
and answered vaguely:
" Yes, sir."
This involuntary renunciation of the Scotch
Presbyterian Church procured him a room
belonging to a mobilized Belgian professor
and a bed with sheets.
Now, at that very moment, Hauptmann
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 69
Reineker, who commanded a German battery
of heavy artillery at Paschendaele, was in a
very bad temper.
The evening post had brought him an am-
biguous letter from his wife in which she men-
tioned too often, and with an affectation of
indifference, a wounded officer of the Guards,
whom she had been nursing for several days.
During the night, he surveyed his gun-
emplacements on the outskirts of a wood, then
he said suddenly:
' Wolfgang, have you any shells avail-
" How many? "
" Good! Wake up Theresa's crew."
He then verified his calculations by his map.
The men, half awake, loaded the enormous
gun. Reineker gave the order, and, shaking
up everyone and everything, the shell started
forth, hurtling through the night.
0275 Private Scott, then, who adored his
wife and had accepted a post without honour
for her sake, was sleeping peacefully in the
bedroom of a mobilized Belgian professor: and
Captain Reineker, whose wife no longer loved
7 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
him, and whom he mistrusted, was striding
furiously up and down amongst the frozen
woods, and these two circumstances, widely
apart from one another, were developed inde-
pendently in an indifferent world.
Now the calculations of Reineker, like most
calculations, went wrong. He was 400 yards
out. His landmark was the church. From
the church to the college was 400 yards. A
light wind increased the deviation by 20 yards,
and from that moment the Reineker and the
Scott situation began to have points in com-
mon. At this particular point the chest of
0275 Private Scott received the full force of
the 305 shell, and he was blown into a thou-
sand bits, which, amongst other things, put an
end to the Scott situation.
"The ideal of the English Church has been to
provide a resident gentleman for every parish in
the Kingdom, and there have been worse ideals."
AURELLE, arriving for tea at the Mess,
found only the padre repairing a magic
" Hullo, messiou," he said, " very glad to
see you. I am getting my lantern ready for
a sporting sermon to the men of B Company
when they come out of the trenches."
'What, padre, you preach sermons now
with a magic lantern? "
"My boy, I am trying to make the men
come; there are too many who keep away. I
know very well that the regiment has a good
many Presbyterians, but if you could see the
Irish regiments not a man misses going to
Mass. Ah, messiou, the Catholic padres have
more influence than we have. I ask myself,
why? I go every day to the trenches, and
72 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
even if the men think me an old fool they
might at least recognize that I am a sports-
" The regiment is very fond of you, padre.
But, if you don't mind my saying so, I think
that Catholic priests have a special influence.
Confession has something to do with it, but
their vow of celibacy more, because, in a sort
of way, it makes them different from other
people. Even the doctor tones down his best
stories when Father Murphy dines with us."
" But, my boy, I love O'Grady's stories ;
I am an old soldier and a man of the world.
When I was shooting in Africa a negro queen
made me a present of three young negresses."
" Oh, I let them go the same day, which
annoyed them somewhat. But I don't see
why, after that, I need play Mrs. Grundy in
One of the orderlies brought some boiling
water, and the padre asked Aurelle to make
' When I was married not that way, mes-
siou; it's curious that no Frenchman can make
tea. Always warm the teapot first, my boy;
you cannot make good tea with a cold teapot."
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 73
1 You were talking about your wedding,
" Yes, I wanted to tell you how indignant
all these Pharisees were, who want me to be-
have like a prude with young people, when I
merely wanted to be reasonable. When I
was going to be married, I naturally had to
ask one of my colleagues to perform the cere-
mony. After having settled the important
points, I said to him, ' In the Marriage Serv-
ice of the Church of England there is one
passage which I consider absolutely indecent.
Yes, yes, I know quite well that it is what
St. Paul said. Well, probably in his time he
had a perfect right to say such things, and
they were adapted to the manners and cus-
toms of the Corinthians, but they are not
meant for the ears of a young girl from Aber-
deen in 1906. My fiancee is innocent, and I
will not have her shocked.' The young man,
a worldly-minded little curate, went and com-
plained to the bishop, who sent for me and
said haughtily, 'So it is you who are taking
upon yourself to forbid the reading of the
Epistle to the Corinthians? I would have
you know that I am not the man to put up
with nonsense of this sort.' ' All right,' I re-
74 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
plied, ' I would have you know that I am not
the man to put up with an insult to my wife.
If this fellow insists on reading the passage,
I shall say nothing in the church, out of re-
spect for the sacred edifice, but I promise
you that after the ceremony I shall box his
" Well, messiou, the bishop looked at me
carefully to see if I was in earnest. Then
he remembered my campaign in the Trans-
vaal, the negro Queen, and the dangers of a
scandal, and he answered me with unction,
* I do not see after all that the passage that
shocks you is absolutely essential to the mar-
riage ceremony.' '
Dr. O'Grady here came in and asked for a
cup of tea.
" Who made this tea?" he demanded.
" You, Aurelle? How much tea did you
" One spoonful for each cup."
" Now listen to an axiom one spoonful
for each cup and then one for the pot. It is
curious that no Frenchman knows how to
Aurelle changed the subject.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 75
" The padre was telling me about his wed-
" A padre ought not to be married," said
the doctor. ' You know what St. Paul said,
4 A married man seeks to please his wife and
not God.' "
" You have put your foot in it now," said
Aurelle. " Don't talk to him about St. Paul;
he has just been strafing him badly."
" Excuse me," said the padre, " I only
strafed a bishop."
" Padre," said the doctor, " judge not "
" Oh, I know," said the padre, " the Master
said that, but He did not know any bishops."
Then he returned to his old subject. " Tell
me, O'Grady, you are Irish; why have the
Catholic chaplains more influence than we? "
" Padre," said the doctor, " listen to a par-
able. It is your turn. A man had commit-
ted a murder. He was not suspected, but
remorse made him restless and miserable.
One day, as he was passing an Anglican
church, it seemed to him that the secret would
be easier to bear if he could share it with some
one else, so he entered and asked the vicar to
hear his confession.
76 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" The vicar was a very well brought up
young man, and had been at Eton and Oxford,
Enchanted with this rare piece of luck, he
said eagerly, ' Most certainly, open your heart
to me; you can talk to me as if I were your
father ! ' The other began : ' I have killed a
man.' The vicar sprang to his feet. ' And
you come here to tell me that ? Horrible mur-
derer! I am not sure that it is not my duty
as a citizen to take you to the nearest police
station. In any case it is my duty as a gen-
tleman not to keep you a moment longer un-
der my roof.*
"And the man went away. A few miles
farther on he saw a Roman Catholic church.
A last hope made him enter, and he knelt
down behind some old women who were wait-
ing by the confessional. When his turn came
he could just distinguish the priest praying in
the shadows, his head in his hands. * Father,'
he said, ' I am not a Catholic, but I should
like to confess to you.' ' I am listening, my
son.' ' Father, I have committed murder.'
" He awaited the effect of this terrible rev-
elation. In the austere silence of the church
the voice of the priest said simply, * How many
times, my son? '
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 77
" Doctor," said the padre, " you know that
I am Scotch. I can only take in a story a
week after I hear it."
" That one will take you longer, padre,"
said the doctor.
SW. TARKINGTON, an officer of
fifty-three, honorary lieutenant and
quartermaster, was possessed of a vain
but keen desire to win one more ribbon be-
fore retiring. The laws of nature and eight-
een years of good conduct had given him the
South African medal and the long service
ribbon. But with a little luck even an honor-
ary lieutenant may pick up a Military Cross
if the bullets fall in the right place. That is
why Tarkington was always to be found in
dangerous corners where he had no business,
and that is why, on the day Loos was taken,
he wandered with his rheumatic old joints over
the soaking battlefield and carried in eighteen
wounded men on his back. But he met no
general and no one knew anything about it,
except the wounded, who have no influence.
From there the regiment was sent to the
north and went into the line in the Ypres
salient. There existed, no doubt, excellent
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 79
sentimental and military reasons for defend-
ing this piece of ground, but as a winter resi-
dence it left much to be desired. Tarkington
did not fear the danger shells were part of
the day's work but his rheumatism feared the
water, and the rain falling incessantly on the
greasy clay made a damp and icy paste which
no doctor would recommend for the oiling of
old joints. Tarkington, whose painfully swol-
len feet now made the shortest march a Chi-
nese torture, finally realized that he must ap-
ply to be sent to hospital.
" It's just my luck," he said to his con-
fidant, the sergeant-major. " I have the pain
without the wound."
So he went off limping and swearing to find
the colonel in his dug-out, and told him of the
state of his legs.
The colonel was in a bad temper that morn-
ing. A communication from the headquarters
of the division had pointed out to him that the
proportion of trench feet in his regiment had
reached 3.6 per cent., whereas the average of
the corps was only 2.7. And would he take
the necessary precautions to reduce his per-
centage in the future?
The necessary precautions had been taken;
8o The Silence of Colonel Bramble
he had sent for the doctor and given him the
" And see here, O'Grady. You may have
bronchitis, sore throats and gastric enteritis,
but I do not want any more trench feet for
You may imagine how Tarkington was re-
ceived when he came to exhibit his paralysed
"Now that's the limit. I send down an
officer for trench feet? Read, Tarkington,
read, and do you imagine I am going to trans-
form 3.5 into 3.6 to please you? Look up,
my friend, General Routine Orders No. 324
' Trench Feet result from a contraction of
the superficial arteries with the consequence
that the skin no longer being nourished dies
and mortifies.' Therefore, all you have to do
is to watch your arteries. Tarkington, I am
extremely sorry, old man, but that is all I
can do for you."
" Just my luck, said the old man to his
friend the sergeant-major. " I have thirty-
seven years' service; I have never been ill; and
when, for the first time in my life, I ask for
sick leave, Jtjiappens on the very same day
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 81
that headquarters have strafed the colonel over
that very subject."
His feet became red, then blue, and had be-
gun to turn black when the colonel went away
on leave. The command in his absence was
taken over by Major Parker, who, being the
second son of a peer, paid small attention to
remarks from the brigade. He saw the dis-
tress of the unfortunate Tarkington, and sent
him to the field hospital, where they decided
to send him to England. It seemed that
Tarkington was not the kind to be acclimatized
in the Flemish marshes.
He was taken to B and put on board
the hospital ship Saxonia, with the wounded,
doctors and nurses. The port officials had
ascertained to their annoyance the day before
that a number of floating mines were in the
The authorities argued over the origin of
these mines, which the N.T.O. said were those
of the Allies, while the M.L.O. thought they
were the enemy's. But there was no argu-
ment about one detail: every boat that had
come into contact with one had been cut in
two and sunk immediately.
82 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
The captain of the Saooonia was convinced
that the Channel was free from mines. He
risked it and was blown up.
So Tarkington jumped into the sea. As a
good soldier, his instinct was to devote his last
minutes to keeping calm, and he swam about
quietly with the gas mask that he had been
advised never to lose hanging round his neck.
A salvage boat picked him up, unconscious,
and he was taken to a hospital on the English
coast. He recovered consciousness, but felt
very ill from his immersion in the water.
"Just like my cursed luck!" he groaned.
" They stop me starting for a month, and
when at last I do get off, it is in the only ship
that has gone down for a year."
" They are all alike," said the colonel, on
his return from leave. " Here's a blighter
who grumbles at having his feet in water, and
then takes advantage of my absence to go and
have a salt-water bath! "
Now, a few months before, King George,
after his accident in France, had crossed the
Channel on board the Saoconia. The fate of
the ship naturally interested His Majesty,
who came to see the survivors, and, as Tark-
ington was the only officer, he had the ines-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 83
timable privilege of quite a long conversation
with the King. The result of this was that a
few days afterwards a regiment " somewhere
in France " received a memorandum from gen-
eral headquarters asking for a statement of
the services of Tarkington, S. W.
The memorandum being accompanied by
certain verbal comments on the subject of " a
very distinguished personage " by an officer in
a red-banded gold-peaked cap, the colonel
wrote nice things which he had never said to
him of Tarkington, S. W., and the sergeant-
major gave details of the brilliant conduct of
the quartermaster at Loos.
The London Gazette a fortnight later re-
capitulated these exploits in a supplement to
the list of awards and honours, and Tarking-
ton, honorary captain, M.C., meditating on his
fate, found the world not such a bad place
ATMIE first encounter that the brigade
had with the village was not
The village looked distrustfully on the bri-
gade, with its bare knees and its language like
the rolling of a drum. The brigade found the
village short of estaminets and pretty girls.
The people of Hondezeele bewailed the de-
parture of a division of London Territorials,
with their soft voices and full pockets, and
wherever Aurelle went they did nothing but
sing the praises of these sons of their adoption.
"Your Scotchmen, we know them. We
cannot understand what they say and my lit-
tle girls can speak English."
"Scotch Promenade no bon!" said the
" I had the general's chauffeur here," went
on the old woman, " a nice boy, sir. Billy,
they called him. He washed up for me, and
pleasant spoken, too, and good manners. An
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 85
officers' Mess? Certainly not. I can make
more selling fried potatoes and beer to the
boys, and even eggs, although they cost me
" Fried potatoes, two painnies a plate, aigs
and bacon, one franc," chorused the little girls.
Aurelle went on to the next house, where
other old women mourned other Billys,
Harrys, Gingers, and Darkies.
One stout lady explained that noise gave
her palpitations; another, quite seventy-five,
that it was not proper for a girl living alone.
At last he found a corpulent lady whom he
overwhelmed with such eloquent protestations
that she could not get in a word. The next
morning, he sent her the orderlies with the
plate and crockery, and at lunch-time brought
along Parker and O'Grady. The servants
were waiting for them at the door.
" Madame is a regular witch, sir. She's a
proper fury, that's what she is, sir."
" Madame " welcomed them with confused
"Ah! bien merci! Ah! bien merci! How
I have regretted having agreed to have you.
I have not had a wink of sleep with my hus-
band abusing me. He nearly beat me, mon-
86 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
sieur. Oh, don't touch that ! I forbid you to
enter my clean kitchen. Wipe your feet, and
take those boxes off there! "
" Put the boxes in the dining-room," or-
dered Aurelle, to conciliate her.
" Thank you! Put your dirty boxes in my
dining-room, with my beautiful table and my
fine dresser ! I should think so, indeed ! "
" But, in heaven's name, madame," said
Aurelle, quietly, " where shall I put them? "
He half opened a door at the end of the
"Will you kindly leave that door alone!
My lovely salon, where I do not even go my-
self for fear of making it dirty ! And, besides,
I have had enough of your Mess, I'm about
tired of it."
A little later, Aurelle went into Madame
Lemaire's, the draper's, to buy some chocolate.
She had relegated all her pre-war trade to a
corner of the shop, and now sold, like the rest
of the village, Quaker Oats, Woodbine ciga-
rettes, and post-cards with the words : " From
your Soldier Boy."
While she was serving him, Aurelle espied
behind the shop a charming, bright little apart-
ment, decorated with plates on the wall, and a
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 87
clean cloth, with green and white squares, on
the table. He strolled carelessly towards the
door. Madame Lemaire looked suspiciously
at him and folded her arms across her enor-
"Would you believe, madame, that there
are in this village people so unpatriotic as to
refuse to take in officers, who do not know
where to eat their meals? "
"Is it possible?" said Madame Lemaire,
He told her who they were.
"Ah, the carpenter's wife!" said Madame
Lemaire, turning up her nose in disgust. " I
am not surprised. They come from Moeve-
kerke, and the people of Moevekerke are all
" But it seems to me," insinuated Aurelle
gently, " that you have a room here that would
A week later the village and the brigade
were tasting the pure joys of the honeymoon.
In each house a Jack, a Ginger or a Darkey
helped to wash up, called the old lady Granny,
and joked with the girls. The London Ter-
ritorials were quite forgotten. At night, in
88 The Silence of Colonel. Bramble
the barns, beribboned bagpipes accompanied
the monotonous dances.
Aurelle had lodged the padre at Madame
Potiphar's, a lively young widow to whom the
divisions, billeted in turn in the village, had
handed on this nickname, like a local password.
The virtue of the padre, which had protected
him against the solid charms of three young
negresses, feared nothing from the manoeuvres
of a village Potiphar.
Parker and O'Grady shared a large room
in the inn. They called the publican and his
wife Papa and Mamma. Lucie and Berthe,
the daughters of the house, taught them
French. Lucie was six feet high; she was
pretty, slender, and fair. Berthe was more
substantial and remarkably good-natured.
These two fine Flemish girls, honest without
prudishness, greedy of gain, lacking in culture
but not in shrewdness, were the admiration
of Major Parker.
Although their father was in a fair way to
making a fortune by selling the Tommies
English beer made in France, they never
thought of asking him for money for their
clothes or of making a servant work in their
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 89
" One ought to be able to fight when one
leaves such women at home," said the major
The father was the same sort. He de-
scribed to Aurelle the death of his son, a splen-
did boy, three times mentioned in despatches.
He talked of him with a pride and resigna-
tion truly admirable.
Aurelle advised the publican, if he had a
few hundred francs to spare, to put them in
the War Loan.
" I have already put in fifty thousand
francs," said the old man. " I shall wait a
The whole village was rich.
Colonel Bramble gave two sous one day to
Madame Lemaire's son, an urchin of five
1 To buy some sweets with," Aurelle told
" Oh, no, I don't care for them."
' What will you do with your sous, then? "
" Put them in my money-box till I have got
enough to get a deposit book in the Savings
Bank; then, when I am grown up, I shall buy
That evening Aurelle repeated this to Lucie
9O The Silence of Colonel Bramble
and Berthe, thinking it would amuse them.
He soon found out that no one was amused:
jokes about money were sacrilege. The pub-
lican related a little moral story to make this
" When I was small," he said, " I often used
to go on messages into the town for Monsieur
le cure, and each time he gave me two sous,
which I took to my father. But after a time,
Monsieur le cure made old Sophie, his servant,
send me on his commissions and she never gave
me my two sous. My father, who asked me
for them, was very indignant. He consulted
my grandfather, and the whole family were
called in one evening to discuss the matter.
" My father said, ' The child cannot go and
complain to Monsieur le cure, because if it is
he who has stopped the two sous he might be
offended.' * And if it is old Sophie who has
diddled the child out of it she would box his
ears,' said my mother. My grandfather, who
was no fool, hit upon the best way. He said
to me, ' You will go and make your confession
to Monsieur le cure. You will tell him that
you have sinned by getting angry with old
Sophie because she sent you to the town with-
out giving you anything,'
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 91,
" It was a great success. ' What/ said the
cure. ' The old wretch ! She charged me for
them every time. Release me from the secret
of the confessional and I will give her a good
talking-to ! ' I remembered that her hand was
heavy and I did not release him ; but in future
he always sent me himself."
The schoolmistress from Lille, who pos-
sessed the only piano in the village, explained
to Aurelle that she had had to cut out of her
lesson the whole chapter on economy and
thrift, substituting a lesson on generosity. A
little girl of eight then said to her, " I can
never do that, mademoiselle. My mother is
mean, and I am sure I shall be meaner than
Meanwhile the Highlanders were turning
the King's shillings into glasses of beer, and
were showering on these economical little girls
embroidered aprons, sugar-plums and post-
cards, with " From Your Soldier Boy " on
them, price ninepence.
The plump and active mothers of these nice
little Flemish girls sold the aprons and post-
" As, messiou," said Colonel Bramble, " be-
fore the War we used to talk about frivolous
92 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
France; now it is stern and prudent France."
" Yes," added the doctor, " the French are
hard and severe on themselves. I begin to
understand the Boche who said, ' Man does
not aspire to happiness, only Englishmen.'
There is, among your peasants of the north, an
admirable voluntary asceticism."
" Did you ever see, messiou," said the padre,
" in our country, before the War, the French-
man of the music-hall? The little fellow with
the black beard, who gesticulates and ha-
rangues? I believed it, messiou, and never
pictured these devout and industrious vil-
" I like to see them on Sunday morning,"
said the major, " when the bell for Mass starts
ringing, and they all come out of their houses
together, old men, women and children, as if
they were going to a theatre. Ah, messiou,
why didn't you tell us all about this before
' The reason is," said Aurelle, " that we
didn't know it ourselves."
ORION'S belt rose higher in the wintry
sky; the roads were frozen hard. The
mail vans overflowed more and more
every day with enormous quantities of pud-
dings and Christmas cards, and the festive sea-
son recalled the joys of life to the division and
The preparations for the Christmas dinner
occupied Aurelle and the padre for some time.
The latter found a turkey worthy of the royal
table at a farm; Aurelle hunted from house
to house for chestnuts; Parker attended him-
self to the cooking, and mixed a salad of which
he was very proud, but the colonel examined
it long and doubtfully. As for the doctor, he
was sent off with Aurelle to Bailleul to buy
some champagne, and insisted on sampling
several different brands, which inspired hini
to give vent to some strange doctrines on
things in general on the way home.
He obtained permission to invite his friends
94 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Berthe and Lucie to come in at the end of din-
ner to drink a bumper of champagne in the
Mess, and when they entered in their Sunday
dresses, the colonel played " Destiny Waltz,"
speed 61. The orderlies had hung a great
bunch of mistletoe over the door, and the girls
asked ingenuously if it was not the custom in
England to kiss under the mistletoe.
" Oh, certainly," said the doctor, and with
his hands behind his back, he pecked Berthe
on the cheek which she turned towards him.
Parker, equally nervous, did the same to
pretty Lucie, and Aurelle gave them both a
good hug in the French way.
* That's fine, mademoiselle? " said the lit-
" Yes," said Lucie with a sigh. " We wish
it was always Christmas."
" Oh, but why? " said the doctor.
' Think how dull it will be for us after the
War," replied Berthe, "when you are all
gone! Before, one did not think of it one
saw no one one worked, one knew no better,
but now, without the boys, the village will be
empty indeed. My sister and I will not stay
here. We will go to Paris or London."
" Oh, but that's a pity," said the doctor.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 95
" No, no," said Aurelle, " you will just get
married. You will marry rich farmers, you
will be very busy with your beasts and your
chickens and you will forget all about us."
" It's easy to say ' get married,' " observed
Berthe, " but it takes two for that. And if
there are not enough men for all the girls we
shall probably get left in the lurch."
" Every man will have several wives," said
Aurelle. " You will be much happier ; with
one husband between you two, you will only
have half the housework to do."
' I do not think I should like it," said Lucie,
who was very refined.
But the padre, to whom the doctor had just
treacherously translated Aurelle's cynical pro-
posals, indignantly protested.
" You ought not to criticize polygamy,
padre," said the doctor. "Re-read your
Bible. What have you to say about old
Laban, who, having sold his two daughters
to the same man, payable monthly for four-
teen years, gave the purchaser in addition two
waiting-maids as a bonus ? "
" But," said the padre, " I am not respon-
sible for the actions of a doubtful patriarch.
I have no sympathy with Laban."
96 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" No more have I," said Aurelle. " This
Dufayel of marriage has always profoundly
disgusted me, but more on account of his mat-
rimonial methods than for having gone in for
the polygamy natural to his tribe. Moreover,
is the number of women to be apportioned to
one man a question of morals? It appears
to me to be a question of arithmetic. If there
are nearly as many women as men, monogamy
is the rule; if for some reason the number of
women is increased, polygamy is perhaps bet-
ter for the general welfare."
The two girls, who understood this conver-
sation much less than the " promenade " and
the " na poo " of the Tommies, went up to the
colonel, who talked to them paternally in his
gruff way and got the " Caruso " record for
them out of its pink cover.
' You have some weird ideas about animal
psychology, Aurelle," said the doctor. " If
you have observed nature, you would have
proved, on the contrary, that the question of
the numbers of mates is certainly not a ques-
tion of arithmetic. With gnats, ten females
are born to one male. Now gnats are not
polygamous. Nine out of those females die
spinsters. It is only the old maids who bite
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 97
us, from which one sees that celibacy engen-
ders ferocity among insects as well as among
" I have known some charming old maids,"
"Indeed!" said the doctor. "But, how-
ever that may be, the number of married pairs
varies simply according to the way the spe-
cies feed. Rabbits, Turks, sheep, artists, and,
generally speaking, all herbivorous creatures
are polygamous; while foxes, Englishmen,
wolves, bankers, and, generally speaking, all
carnivorous animals are monogamists. That
is because of the difficulty which carnivorous
animals find in rearing their young until they
are strong enough to kill for themselves. As
for polyandry, it occurs in wretched countries
like Thibet, where several men must unite
forces to keep one wife and her progeny."
The howls of Caruso rendered all conversa-
tion impossible for a minute, then Aurelle said
to Lucie: " The other girls in the village will
perhaps find it difficult to get husbands, it is
true, but you and your sister need not worry;
you are the prettiest, and you will soon have
the richest father. You will have fine mar-
98 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" Yes, that's true. Perhaps they will marry
us for our money," said Berthe, who was
" I should not care to be married for my
money," said Lucie.
"Oh, strange creature!" said the doctor,
" you would like to be loved for your face
alone, that is to say, for the position in space
of the albuminoids and fatty molecules placed
there by the working of some Mendelian he-
redity, but you would dislike to be loved
for your fortune, to which you have contrib-
uted by your labour and your domestic vir-
Berthe regarded the doctor nervously and
reminded her sister that they had some glasses
to wash before going to bed; so they emptied
their bumpers and departed.
After a restful silence, Major Parker asked
Aurelle to explain the institution of the mar-
riage dot, and, when he had grasped it, indig-
" What? A man receives this splendid gift,
a pretty woman, and he exacts money before
accepting her? But what you tell me is mon-
strous, Aurelle, and dangerous. Instead of
marrying beautiful and good women who
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 99
would have beautiful and good children, you
marry ugly, quarrelsome creatures provided
with a cheque-book."
" ' He who has found a good wife has found
great happiness,' " quoted the padre, * ' but a
quarrelsome woman is like a roof that lets in
the rain.' "
" It is wrong to suppose the children of love-
matches better made than others," interrupted
the doctor, becoming rather warlike, obviously
owing to champagne. " Oh, I know the old
theory: every man chooses his natural com-
plement, and thus rears children which revert
to the average type of the race. Big men
like little women, large noses like little snub-
noses, and very feminine men fall in love with
" As a matter of fact, a nervous, short-
sighted, intellectual man marries a pedantic,
nervous, short-sighted woman because their
tastes are similar. Good riders make ac-
quaintance with girls who hunt, and marry
them for their sporting tastes.
"So, far from reverting to the average type,
love-matches tend to exaggerate the differ-
ences. And then is it desirable for selection
to operate? There are very few really bril-
ioo The Silence of Colonel Bramble
liant men who have not had at least one mad-
man among their ancestors. The modern
world has been founded by three epileptics-
Alexander, Julius Cgesar and Luther, without
mentioning Napoleon, who was not altogether
" In a thousand men of genius, how many
mad relations? " asked the colonel.
" I can't tell you, sir," said the doctor.
c You can talk nonsense to your heart's con-
tent, doctor," said Major Parker. "But as
far as I am concerned, if I ever marry, I shall
only marry a very pretty woman. What's the
name of that charming cinema actress we saw
together at Hazebrouck, Aurelle?"
" Napierkowska, sir."
"Oh, yes. Well, if I knew her I would
marry her at once. And I am sure that she
is if anything better and more intelligent than
the average woman."
" My friend Shaw," said the doctor, " says
that to desire to be perpetually in the society
of a pretty woman, until the end of one's days,
is as if, because one likes good wine, one wished
always to have one's mouth full of it."
" Rather a flimsy argument," observed the
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 101
major. " For surely that is better than hav-
ing it always full of bad wine."
"Anyhow," the doctor replied, "women
who exhibit more surely than us the underly-
ing instincts of mankind are far from bearing
out your theory; I know very few who make
a point of marrying a good-looking man."
' Well, do you know the story about Fra-
zer? " said the major.
"Which Frazer?" said the colonel. " G.R.
of the 60th?"
" No, no. A. K. of the 5th Gurkhas the
one who played polo for the regiment in 1900,
an awfully good-looking fellow, the finest chin
in the army."
" Oh, I know him," said the colonel, " the
son of old Sir Thomas. His father sold me
a damned good pony, when I was a subaltern,
and I only paid 200 rupees for it. Well,
what is his story? "
" At the beginning of 1915," said the major,
" Frazer, who was crossing London on his way
home on leave, went to the theatre one evening
alone. Towards the end of the first act, he
felt vaguely that some one was staring at him.
He looked up and saw a woman in a box look-
102 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
ing at him. But, owing to the darkness of the
theatre, he could not distinguish her features.
" In the interval, he tried to see her, but
she had withdrawn to the back of her box.
During the next two acts she looked at him
fixedly. Frazer, decidedly intrigued, was
waiting at the exit of the theatre, when a mag-
nificent footman approached him, saying, ' A
lady wishes to speak to you, sir,' and led him
to the door of a carriage which had stopped
in a side street.
" ' You do not know me, Captain Frazer/
said a very pretty voice, 'but I know you;
have you anything to do this evening or will
you come to supper with me?' Frazer did
what we should all have done."
" He ran away? " said the padre.
" He got into the carriage," said Parker.
" He was asked to allow himself to be blind-
folded. When the bandage was taken off he
found himself in a charming room, alone with
the fair unknown, who was decollete e and
wearing a mask, and who had the most beau-
tiful shoulders in the world! "
" Is this by Dumas pere or R. L. Steven-
son? " asked Aurelle.
" It is a story of what actually happened in
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 103
January, 1915, and was fold me by a man who
never lies," said Major Parker. c The house
was in silence. No servant appeared, but
Frazer, delighted, was offered by the unknown
herself what you French call, I believe, bon
souper, bon gite et le reste.
" At break of day, she bandaged his eyes
again. He told her how much he had enjoyed
himself and asked her when he could see her
again. ' Never,' she replied, * and I take it
that I have your word of honour as a gentle-
man and a soldier that you will never try to
find me again. But in one year from now,
to the day, go back to the same theatre where
we met, and there will, perhaps, be a letter
for you.' Then she saw him into the car-
riage again, and asked him to keep his eyes
blindfolded for ten minutes: when he took
off the bandage, he was in Trafalgar
" Frazer naturally moved heaven and earth
to get leave in January, 1916, and on the eve-
ning of the anniversary of his adventure ap-
peared at the box office of the theatre and
asked for a stall. ' Have you by any chance
a letter for me? ' he said, giving his name. The
clerk handed him an envelope, and Frazer,
IO4 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
eagerly opening it, read this short line: ' It is
a fine boy. Thank you.' '
' What is still more strange," said the doc-
tor with sarcasm. " is that another good-look-
ing lad told me the same story some time be-
fore the war, and that that time he was the
hero of it."
" Then this lady must have several chil-
dren," said the colonel.
OU, pretty shopgirl, whose fresh charm
Was once engrossing,
And you, who kept, with strong bare arm,
And you, the Teacher, you who went
In dress less candid,
Or, soft-eyed, o'er your keyboard leant,
Fair Baker's wife, who had our love,
Yet counted pence
As one who had a soul above
Their vulgar sense;
All you whose wayside smile could then
So quickly chase
The black despond of us poor men
Those hateful days!
Who sprawled across your open door
And loosed their speech
To tell of hopes and plans in store,
Beyond their reach. . . .
106 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
You did not always understand,
But never mind,
No wiser they, the glitt'ing band
We left behind.
No man but thinks his worth impressed
Where he desires;
And there, as in a mirror drest,
And Margot, to his talk resigned,
One ear in guile lent,
A very Sevigne he'll find
So she be silent.
EXTRACTS FROM AURELLE's DIARY
Hondezeele, January 19 .
MADAME LEMAIRE has presented
the Mess with a bottle of old brandy,
and the doctor is in very good form
this evening. He is the true Irish type; a
lover of surprising epigrams.
He says, " We owe to the Middle Ages the
two worst inventions of humanity romantic
love and gunpowder." Again, " The whole
reason of this War is because the Germans
have no sense of humour."
But, above all, you must hear his scientific
and precise demonstration of his favourite
theory: " Two telegrams contrary in sense,
and from officers equal in rank, cancel one
Rode with the colonel and Parker. How
delicate and clear the atmosphere is in this
io8 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
northern part of France! The colonel was
highly indignant to hear that I have never
been out hunting.
" You must,, messiou, it is the only sport.
You jump banks as high as your horse. At
eighteen I had nearly broken my neck twice.
It is most exciting."
" Yes," said Parker, " one day I was gal-
loping in a wood and a branch went into my
right eye. It is a miracle I wasn't killed.
Another time "
He described how his horse fell on the top
of him and broke two of his ribs. Then
both of them together, certain of having con-
1 You must hunt after the War, messiou."
This morning, I do not know why, some
French troops came through Hondezeele.
The village and I were delighted. We like
the shrill bagpipes, but no music in the world
is like " Sidi-Brahim " and " Sambre-et-
I was pleased, too, to be able to show Par-
ker these Chasseurs a pied, as all he had seen
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 109
of our army were old Territorials. He was
' They are as fine as the Highlanders," he
And then he described the Lennox as they
were when he joined as second lieutenant in
" I was forbidden to speak at Mess for six
months. An excellent practice ! It taught us
to realize how humble we were, and the respect
due to our elders.
" If some * swelled head ' did not conform
to these rules, he soon found his things all
packed up in his room, labelled for England.
If he still refused to understand, he was called
up before a subaltern's court-martial, and
heard some home truths about himself.
" It was hard, but what esprit de corps and
what discipline those rough ways taught us.
We shall never see a regiment again like the
Lennox of 1914. The officer of to-day has
seen active service, it's true, but as a matter
of fact it is quite sufficient in war to have
good health and no more imagination than a
fish. It is in peace-time that one ought to
judge a soldier."
no The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" You remind me," said the doctor, " of the
sergeant-major in the Guards who said:
' How I wish the war would finish so that we
could have real manoeuvres once more ! '
This evening, while the gramophone was
raging, I forced myself to translate into
French Rudyard Kipling's admirable poem:
I showed it in English to Parker whom
it describes so well, and we talked about
books. I made the mistake of mentioning
" I detest Dickens," said the major. " I
never could understand how anyone could find
him interesting. His books are all stories of
the lower classes and Bohemians. I do not
want to know how they live. In the whole of
Dickens' works there is not one gentleman.
No, if you wish to know the chef-d'oeuvre of
English novels read * Jorrocks.' '
A little English telephonist who came to
mend our apparatus said to me, " Telephones
are like women, sir. No one really knows
anything about them. One fine day, some-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble in
thing goes wrong; you try to find out why,
no good, you swear, you shake them up a bit
and all is well."
At dinner an Irish colonel remarked:
" I am very annoyed ; during my last leave
I rented a house for my family, and now my
wife writes that it is haunted. The owners
really ought to tell one these things."
" Perhaps they did not know it," said our
" They knew it very well. When my wife
went to complain, they got very confused, and
ended by owning up. One of their great-
grandmothers has walked from the drawing-
room to her old bedroom for the last hundred
and fifty years. They tried to excuse them-
selves by saying she was perfectly harmless.
That is possible, and I am quite willing to
believe it, but it is none the less annoying for
my wife. Do you think I can cancel my
I here risked a sceptical remark, but the
whole Mess jumped on me. Irish ghosts are
ii2 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" But why do phantoms love Irish houses
more than others? "
" Because," said the Irish colonel, " we are
a very sensitive race and we enter into com-
munication with them more easily."
And he crushed me with technical argu-
ments on wireless telegraphy.
The colonel, having found out this morning
that a motor-ambulance was going into Ypres,
took me with him. In front of the hospital
we found ourselves wedged in by a terrible
block of waggons, under a fierce bombard-
A horse with its carotid artery cut by a bit
of shell, and only held up by the shafts, was
writhing in agony close by us. The drivers
were swearing. Nothing to do but wait pa-
tiently in our car, shaken by explosions.
" Dr. Johnson was right," said the colonel
to me. " Whoever wants to be a hero ought
to drink brandy."
Then, as a fresh explosion made the debris
of the ruined town in front of us tremble,
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 113
" Messiou, how many inhahitants were there
in Ypres before the War? "
We are going to leave Hondezeele. The
red-hats are getting agitated and already one
sees the cyclists passing, the natural advance-
guard of our migrations.
We M^ere beginning to love this country: the
village and the brigade, so distrustful of one
another a month ago, had become really quite
affectionate. But the gods are jealous.
Brigade to march to-morrow's sky
Will see us on the move,
The drums and pipes will sing good-by
To every light-o'-love.
The Highlanders, their kilts a-swirl,
Like eddies on the sand,
With steadfast hymn and fiery skirl,
Must join the devil's band.
When Victory unveils the sun,
Cold earth shall shrine their faith,
But every field and farm they won
Shall know their constant wraith.
And in our Flemish villages . . .
ii4 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Interrupted by the arrival of our successors,
the Canadians, regarded by Madame Lemaire
and her little boy with great suspicion. That
won't last long.
A GREAT attack was in preparation; it
was a terrible secret jealously guarded
by headquarters; but Aurelle was in-
formed of it several days beforehand by the
German communique published in the Times,
and by Madame Lemaire's little boy, who ad-
vised him not to repeat it.
However, the division was soon ordered to
occupy one of the sectors in the attack. The
padre, optimistic as ever, already foresaw tri-
umphant marches, but the colonel gently re-
minded him that the objectives were simply a
ridge, which in peace-time would be called " a
slight undulation in the ground," and two vil-
lages already destroyed. The real object was
to engage the forces of the enemy, who were
at that moment advancing in Russia. But
this information only redoubled the enthusiasm
of the padre.
' You can say what you like, sir; if we hold
this ridge they cannot hold out in the valley,
and we shall break through their line. As for
n6 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
the retreat of the Russians, that's capital.
The Boche gets farther from his base, length-
ens his lines of communications, and he's
" He is not," said the colonel, " but he will
be one day, and that's all that matters."
The evening of the offensive, Aurelle re-
ceived orders from the colonel to go and act
as liaison officer between the headquarters of
the division and some French batteries, which
were reinforcing the British artillery in this
sector. He wished the Lennox good luck and
left them for a day.
He spent the night in the garden of the lit-
tle chateau where the general was living. The
bombardment thundered on without ceasing.
Aurelle walked up and down the paths of this
garden, which had been pretty, but was now
honeycombed with trenches and dug-outs,
while camouflaged huts covered the lawns.
Towards midnight, the rain, the classic rain
of an offensive, began to fall in large drops.
The interpreter took shelter in a shed with
some chauffeurs and motor-cyclists. He al-
ways liked to find himself among this class of
Englishmen with their strong language and
simple minds. These, like the rest, were good
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 117
fellows, careless, courageous and light-hearted.
They hummed the latest music-hall airs from
London, showed him photographs of their
wives, sweethearts and bahies, and asked him
when the damned war would be over. They
shared on this subject the perfect optimism
of the padre.
One of them, a little, quick-witted electri-
cian, asked Aurelle to explain the Alsatian
question. And so he told them about Saverne,
the march past of the Strasburg students be-
fore Kleber's statue, the pilgrimages of the
Alsatians to B elf ore for the 14th of July
Review, and about the young men who at the
age of twenty left family and fortune to go
to France and become soldiers.
They told him that they could understand
anyone loving France: it was a fine country.
All the same there were not enough hedges in
the landscape. But they appreciated the
thrifty qualities of the women, the trees along
the road, and the out-of-door cafes. They
talked with enthusiasm about Verdun, but
many of them had only grasped the idea of
the Entente through Carpentier's victory in
The day dawned; the rain was now falling
ii8 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
in torrents ; on the lawn, the grass and soil was
trodden into a sticky mass. Aurelle went up
to the chateau; he met an aide-de-camp whom
he knew and explained his orders.
" Oh, yes," he was told. " I arranged that
myself with the French liaison officer. If the
telephone from the batteries happens to get
cut, we shall have recourse to you. Go into
the signalling room and sit down. In ten
minutes from now," he added, " our men go
over the top."
The signalling room was the old winter gar-
den. On the wall, a large-scale map of the
trenches showed the British lines in black, and
those of the enemy in red. At two long tables
six telephone operators were installed. Silent
officers with red tabs paced calmly up and
down the room, and Aurelle thought of one
of Major Parker's favourite remarks: "A
gentleman is never in a hurry."
As five o'clock struck, the general came in
and the officers stood still and said all together :
" Good morning, sir."
" Good morning," said the general politely.
He was very tall ; his carefully brushed grey
hair, neatly parted, framed his fine features.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 119
Gold lace shone on the red facings of his well-
Discovering Aurelle in his corner, he very
kindly gave him a little " Good morning " all
to himself, and then he walked slowly, with
his hands behind his back, between the two
long tables of the telephonists. The noise of
the guns had suddenly ceased, and nothing
was heard in the room but the authoritative
and measured step of the general.
A muffled bell tingled ; an operator quietly
made a note of the message on a pink form.
" 5.5 a.m.," read the general softly, " 10th
Brigade. Attack begun, enemy barrage not
very effective, violent machine-gun fire."
Then he passed the telegram to an officer,
who stuck it on a long pin.
' Transmit it to the corps," said the general.
And the officer wrote on a white paper:
"5.10 a.m. 10th Brigade reports as follows:
Attack begun. Enemy barrage not very ef-
fective. Violent machine-gun fire."
He filed a carbon copy on another pin, and
handed the original to an operator, who, in
his turn, read it into the machine.
Inflexibly and monotonously the white and
The Silence of Colonel Bramble
pink messages slowly accumulated. One bri-
gade was in the enemy's first line trenches,
the other had stopped before a concreted nest
of machine-guns. The general reinforced
them with details from the 3rd Brigade, then
rang up the artillery several times to tell them
to destroy the pill box. And these orders
were transcribed on to the pink and white
forms. An officer, standing before the huge
map, carefully manoeuvred small coloured
flags, and all this methodical agitation re-
minded Aurelle of a large banking house on
the Stock Exchange.
Towards six o'clock in the morning, a Staff
officer beckoned to him, and, leading him up
to the map, showed him the emplacement of a
French .155 and asked him to go and see the
officer, and tell him to destroy at all costs a
certain railway cutting in which one or two
enemy machine guns were still firing. The
telephone was no longer working.
Outside everything was calm; it was rain-
ing and the road was a river of yellow mud.
The noise of the guns seemed farther off, but
it was only an illusion, because one could see
the wicked red light of the shells as they burst
over the village in front of the house.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 121
A few wounded, in hasty field-dressings,
bleeding and muddy, were coming slowly up
to the ambulance in small groups. Aurelle
entered a little fir wood; the wet pine-needles
seemed delightful walking after the mud. He
heard the guns of the French battery quite
close, but could not find it. He had been told :
" Northeast corner of the wood." But where
the devil was the northeast? All at once a
blue uniform moved among the trees. At the
same moment a gun went off quite close to
him, and, turning to the right, he saw the gun-
ners on the edge of the wood well hidden by
some thick bushes. A sergeant-major, astride
a chair, tunic undone, kepi pushed back, was in
command. The men served the gun cleverly
and without hurrying, like skilled workmen.
One might have thought it a peaceful, open-
" Sir," said one of the men, " here is an in-
" Ah, now, perhaps, we shall find out why
we can't get an answer from the English,"
said the sergeant-major.
Aurelle gave him the orders, as the captain
was at the observation post, and the lieutenant
trying to repair the telephone.
122 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" Bight," said the sergeant-major, a native
of Lorraine with a quiet, sing-song voice.
" We will demolish it for you, young man."
He telephoned to the captain; then, having
found the cutting on the map, began his cal-
culations. Aurelle stayed a few moments,
glad to find this corner of the battlefield with
no false romance, and also to hear French
spoken again at last.
Then he took the path back to the chateau.
Cutting across a meadow to find the high road,
he approached the battle-field. A brigade of
reinforcements was going up in line ; he passed
it in a contrary direction, with a few wounded
to whom he offered a little brandy. The men
who were going up to fight looked at the
wounded in silence.
A shell whistled above the column ; the heads
bent like poplars in a wind. The shell burst
in a deserted field. Then Aurelle, having
passed the brigade, found himself on the road
with the informal procession of wounded men.
They had fever, they were dirty, they were
bloody ; but, thankful to be out of it, they hur-
ried at the best pace they could muster towards
the haven of white beds.
A company of German prisoners passed,
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 123
guarded by a few Highlanders. Their ter-
rified eyes, like those of trained animals,
seemed to be looking for officers to salute.
As Aurelle arrived at the house, he saw two
men in front of him carrying an officer on a
stretcher. The officer evidently had some ter-
rible wound, for his body was covered with
dressings through which the blood had soaked,
and was dripping slowly on to the muddy road.
6 Yes, Aurelle, it's I," said the dying man
in a strange voice, and Aurelle recognized
Captain Warburton. His good-looking, merry
face had become grave. " O'Grady will not
send me to the Duchess' hospital this time,
messiou," he gasped painfully. " Will you
say good-bye to the colonel for me and let
him write home that I did not suffer much.
Hope that won't bother you. Thanks very
Aurelle, without being able to get out a
word, pressed the hand of this maimed boy
who had been so fond of War, and the
stretcher-bearers carried him gently away.
On arriving at the chateau he found every
one as calm as ever, but very serious. He
gave in a report of his mission to the Staff
officer, who thanked him absently.
124 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" How is it going? " he asked an operator
in a low voice.
"All right," growled the man. "All ob-
jectives attained, but the general killed.
Would go himself to see why the Second
Brigade did not come up a shell buried him
with Major Hall."
Aurelle thought of the grey, smooth hair and
fine features of the general, the gold and scar-
let of his facings all soiled by the ignoble mud
of battles. So much easy dignity, he thought,
so much courteous authority, and to-morrow
carrion, which the soldiers will trample under
foot without knowing. But already, all round
him, they were anxiously discussing who would
be his successor.
In the evening, he went over to the Lennox
with the regiment that was going to relieve
them. The first person he saw was the doc-
tor, who was working in a dug-out.
" I don't think the regiment did badly," he
said. " I have not seen the colonel yet, but
all the men tell me he was a marvel of cour-
age and presence of mind. It appears, mes-
siou, that we have the record number of Ger-
mans killed by one man. Private Kemble
bayoneted twenty-four. Not bad, is it? "
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 125
"No," said Aurelle, "but it's horrible.
Have you looked at Warburton, doctor? I
met him on the road and he seemed very bad."
"Done for," said the doctor. "And his
friend Gibbons died here this afternoon, both
legs blown off."
" Oh, Gibbons too. Poor Gibbons! Do you
remember, doctor, his talking about his plump
little wife? No doubt at this very moment she
is playing tennis with her sisters in some lovely
English garden. And the bleeding limbs of
her husband are there, in that blanket. It's
terrible, doctor, all this."
"Pooh!" answered the doctor, going to
wash his hands, which were covered with blood.
" In three months you will see her portrait in
the Taller i ' The beautiful widow of Captain
Gibbons, M.C., who is shortly to be married
CHANSON DU COMTE DE DORSET* (1665)
ERTES, just now, dear ladies, some
Curled juvenile, your deary,
Is but too apt that song to hum
Of which ye never weary
Fa, do, sol, re.
The while he smooths each glist'ning tress,
With studied grace and air he,
With amorous glance and soft address,
Is seeking to ensnare ye.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Meanwhile our battered vessel rocks
To wild wave-music eerie,
And whistling wind our sort bemocks
With doleful Miserere.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Vainly, to chase the vision pale
Of Fate that needs no query,
We crouch behind our bulwarks frail
And croon in chorus dreary
Fa, do, sol, re.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 127
Devoted to th' infernal shades
By ladies' light vagary,
The dismalest refrain invades
Our hearts in sad quandary.
Fa, do, sol, re.
How now ! Are ye so slight of soul,
Of love are ye so chary,
Already you forget the role,
The text we never vary?
Fa, do, sol, re.
Bethink you of those Roman dames
In household virtue wary,
And, spinning wool, invoke the names
Of Powers tutelary.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Can ye not, then, be such as they?
O hearken to the prayer he
Intones, your lover far away,
And ill-content to share ye !
Fa, do, sol, re.
For if inconstant you should prove,
With wave and weather veer ye,
Beware lest this soft song of love
Should turn to Dies Irae.
Fa, do, sol, re.
THE Lennox Highlanders, when the bri-
gade was relieved, were sent for six days
to a muddy field near Dickebusch. Dr.
O'Grady and Aurelle shared a tent, and dined
together, the first evening, at the inn of the
Trois Amis. c
On their return, the stars shone brightly in
a dark blue velvet sky. The soft moonlight
lay on the grass of the meadows. A few tents
in which a light was burning resembled great
white lanterns ; round the bivouac fires, blown
about by the wind, the men sat swearing and
" War makes light of time," said the doctor,
" it is eternal and unalterable. This camp
might be Caesar's, the Tommies round their
fires, talking of their wives and their dangers,
their boots and their horses, like the legion-
aries of Fabius or the veterans of the Grand
Army. And, as in those days, on the other
side of the hill, repose the barbarous Germans
by their unyoked chariots."
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 129
The burgundy of the Trois Amis inspired
the doctor to hold forth like this.
" This tent is six thousand years old," he
said, " it belongs to the warlike Bedouins who
founded the empires of Babylon and Carthage.
The restlessness of the ancient migrating peo-
ple inspired them with a longing for the des-
ert every year, and sent them forth from the
city walls on profitable raids. It is this same
force, Aurelle, which each summer, before the
war, covered the deserted shores of Europe
with nomadic tents, and it is the dim recollec-
tion of ancestral raids which, on August 1,
1914 holiday time, Aurelle, the time of mi-
grations incited the youngest of the barba-
rians to let loose their Emperor on the world.
It is an old comedy which has been played for
two thousand years, but the public still seem
to take an interest in it. It is because there
is always a fresh audience."
c You are pessimistic this evening," said
'What do you call pessimism?" said the
doctor, painfully pulling off his stiff boots.
" I think that men will always have passions,
and that they will never cease to go for one
another at regular intervals with the most en-
130 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
ergetic means which the science of their time
can procure for them, and the best chosen
weapons with which to break each other's
bones. I think that one sex will always try to
please the other, and that from this elementary
desire will eternally be born the need to van-
quish rivals. With this object, nightingales,
grasshoppers, prima donnas and statesmen
will make use of their voices ; peacocks, niggers
and soldiers, of bright colours; rats, deer, tor-
toises and kings will go on fighting. All that
is not pessimism, it is natural history! "
While talking the doctor had got into his
sleeping-bag, and had seized a little book from
a shelf made out of a biscuit box.
" Listen to this, Aurelle," said he, " and
guess who wrote it.
" ' My regrets about the War are unceas-
ing, and I shall consent to admire your in-
vincible general when I see the fight ended
under honourable conditions. It is true that
the brilliant successes which are your delight
are also mine, because these victories, if we
would use fortune wisely, will procure for us
an advantageous peace. But if we let the mo-
ment pass when we might appear to give peace
rather than receive it, I much fear that this
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 1311
splendid achievement will vanish in smoke.
And if fate sends us reverses I tremble to
think of the peace which will be imposed on
the conquered by an enemy w r ho has the cour-
age to refuse it to the conquerors? '
" I don't know," said Aurelle, yawning.
" Maximilian Harden? "
" Senator Hanno at the Senate of Carth-
age," said the doctor triumphantly. " And
in two thousand three hundred years some
negro doctor, finding after the Great African
War a speech by Lloyd George, will say,
* These old sayings are sometimes very true.'
Your formidable European War is about as
important, Aurelle, as the fights between two
ant-heaps in the corner of my garden in Ire-
" It is much more than that to us," said
Aurelle, " and it appears to me that the sort
of sentiments it gives rise to are not animal.
Do you think that ants are patriotic? "
" Most certainly," replied the doctor, " the
ants must be extremely patriotic. With them
the warriors are highly fed by a race of ser-
vitors. Every season their armies set out to
steal the eggs of the weaker species. Work-
ers are hatched from them, born slaves in a
132 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
foreign country. The military citizens are
thus delivered from the slavery of work and
these soldiers cannot even feed themselves.
Shut up with honey, and without their nurse-
slaves, they die of hunger. That is what is
called civil mobilization. And if this war lasts
long enough, one day, Aurelle, you will see a
new human species appear : soldiermen. They
will be born with helmets and armour, imper-
vious to bullets and provided with natural
weapons; the Suffragettes will be the sexless
slaves who will feed these warriors, while a
few queens will, in special institutions, bring
national infants into the world."
Thus discoursed the doctor, in the friendly
silence of the camp by the soft light of the
moon; and Aurelle, who had gone to sleep,
saw visions of enormous ants in khaki march-
ing by, commanded by the little doctor.
THE orderlies brought the rum, sugar,
and boiling water. The padre began
patience, the colonel played " Destiny
Waltz," and Dr. O'Grady, who in times of
peace was doctor at an asylum, talked about
" I had the care of a rich American who
thought he was surrounded by a belt of poi-
soned gas," he said. " In order to save his
life, he had a special bed made for himself sur-
rounded by a cage of white wood. He passed
his days in this safe shelter, dressed in nothing
but a red bathing suit, writing a book in
twenty thousand chapters on the life and
works of Adam. His room had a triple door
on which he had carved, ' Gas carriers are
warned that there are wolf -traps inside.' He
sent for me every day, and when I went in he
always said, ' I have never seen any creatures
so stupid, so wicked, so rotten, or so dense as
English doctors.' '
134 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
" ' I have never seen,' " repeated the padre
with great satisfaction, ' ' any creatures so
stupid, so wicked, or so dense as English
" Upon which," continued the doctor, " he
turned his back on me, and, clothed in his red
bathing suit, set to work again at the twenty-
thousandth chapter on the works of Adam."
" Here, messiou," interrupted the colonel,
who was examining some official papers, " is
some work for you," and he passed over to
Aurelle a thick bundle of papers covered with
It commenced thus:
" From the Stationmaster at B to the
Military Superintendent of the Station at
16 1 have the honour to inform you that
Mademoiselle Heninghem, gate-keeper at
Hondezeele, complains of the following facts :
the English soldiers camped along the railway
line are in the habit of performing their ablu-
tions in the open air, which is a shocking sight
for the lady in question, who, from the nature
of her work, cannot avoid seeing them. I
shall be obliged if you will give orders that this
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 135
regrettable state of affairs shall be put a stop
to as soon as possible."
" From the Military Superintendent of the
Station at B to the Superintendent at
" Transmitted to the proper quarter."
"The Superintendent W to the
" I shall be obliged if you will give orders
that the camp in question be surrounded with
a fence of sufficient thickness to render the vis-
ibility at fifty yards' distance practically nil."
" That last man," said Aurelle, " is a poly-
The padre asked what that was.
"A polytechnician is a man who believes
that all beings, alive or dead, can be precisely
defined and submitted to an algebraic calcu-
lation. ,A polytechnician puts, on the same
plane, victory, a tempest, and love. I knew
one who, commanding a fortress and having
136 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
to draw up some orders in case of aerial at-
tack, began thus : ' The Fortress of X
will be attacked by an aerial engine when a
vertical line from the engine to the earth
finds the centre of the fortification,' and so
" Do not abuse the Polytechnic, Aurelle,"
said the doctor. " It is the most original of
your institutions and the best. The personal
cult of Napoleon is so well preserved that each
year France presents two hundred Lieutenant
Bonapartes to the astonished Government."
" Go on translating, messiou," said the
" D.A.D.R.T. to the Superintendent.
" This does not concern me but a division
that is resting. You must address your claim
to the A.G. by the intermediary of the French
" Superintendent : to the Base Com-
" I have the honour to forward herewith,
for any action you consider necessary, a
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 137
Memorandum concerning a complaint from
Mademoiselle Heninghem of Hondezeele."
And so it went on: Base Commandant to
the French Mission; French Mission to the
Adjutant- General; A. G. to the Army; Army
to the Corps ; Division to the Brigade ; Brigade
to the Colonel of the Lennox Highlanders.
And it was signed with illustrious names,
Colonel, Chief Staff Officer for the General,
Brigadier, Major- General; thus the modest
scruples of Mademoiselle Heninghem of Hon-
dezeele were clothed, in the course of a long
journey, with purple, gold and glory.
6 This is a tiresome business," said Colonel
Bramble solemnly. " Parker, answer it, will
you, like a good chap."
The major wrote for several minutes, then
" This regiment having left the Camp at
Hondezeele two months and a half ago, it is
unfortunately impossible to take the measures
desired in the matter. Moreover, having as-
certained the great cost of a fence of sufficient
height, I beg to suggest that it would be more
138 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
advantageous to the allied Governments to re-
place the gate-keeper at Hondezeele by a per-
son of mature age and proved experience, to
whom the spectacle described herewith would
be inoffensive and even agreeable."
" No, Parker, no," said the colonel firmly,
" I shall not sign that. Give me a piece of
paper. I will answer myself."
He wrote simply:
"Noted and returned.
" You are a wise man, sir," said Parker.
" I know the game," said the colonel. " I
have played it for thirty years."
" Once upon a time," said the doctor, " there
were two officers who, on the same day, each
lost something belonging to His Majesty's
Government. The first one mislaid a coal-
bucket; the second a motor-lorry. Now you
must know, Aurelle, that in our army an of-
ficer has to pay for anything which he may
lose by negligence out of his own pocket. The
two officers, therefore, received notices from
the War Office advising one that he would have
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 139
to pay three shillings, and the other that a
thousand pounds would be stopped from his
pay. The first one wished to defend himself;
he had never had any coal-buckets, and tried
to prove it. He stopped his promotion, and
in the end had to 'pay the three bob. The sec-
ond, who knew a thing or two, just wrote at
the bottom of the paper, ' Noted and re-
turned,' and sent it back to the War Office.
There, following an old and wise rule, a clerk
lost the correspondence and the officer never
heard anything more of that little matter."
' That isn't a bad story, doctor," said Major
Parker; " but in the case of the loss of prop-
erty belonging to the Government there is a
much better method than yours Colonel
" Colonel Boulton commanded an ammuni-
tion depot. He was responsible, among other
things, for fifty machine-guns. One day he
noticed that there were only forty-nine in the
depot. All the inquiries, and punishment of
the sentries, failed to restore the missing
" Colonel Boulton was an old fox and had
never acknowledged himself in the wrong.
He simply mentioned in his monthly return
140 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
that the tripod of a machine-gun had been
broken. They sent him a tripod to replace
the other without any comment.
" A month later, on some pretext or other,
he reported the sighting apparatus of a ma-
chine-gun as out of order ; the following month
he asked for three screw-nuts; then a recoil
plate, and bit by bit in two years he entirely
destroyed his machine-gun. And correspond-
ingly, bit by bit, the Army Ordnance Depart-
ment reconstructed it for him without attach-
ing any importance to the requisitions for the
' Then Colonel Boulton, satisfied at last, in-
spected his machine-guns, and found fifty-one.
" While he had been patiently reconstruct-
ing the lost gun, some damned idiot had found
it in a corner. And Boulton had to spend two
years of clever manipulation of his books to
account for the new gun which had been
evolved out of nothing."
" Messiou," said the colonel, " do you re-
member the gate-keeper at Hondezeele? I
should not have thought it of her."
" No more should I," said Aurelle. " She
was very pretty."
" Messiou! " said the padre.
said the padre, "give me
J a cigar."
"Are you aware, padre, that my
cigars were rolled on the bare thighs of the
young girls of Havana? "
" O'Grady," said the colonel severely, " I
consider that remark out of place."
" Give me one all the same," said the padre.
" I must smoke a cigar to help me find a text
for my sermon. The quartermaster made me
promise to go and see the motor-drivers who
are at the back, and I don't know what to talk
to them about."
" Look here, padre, I will give you an ap-
propriate text ; lend me your Bible a moment.
Ah, here it is. Listen ! ' But David said,
Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that
which the Lord hath given us ... but as his
part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall
his part be that tarrieth by the stuff; they shall
part alike.' '
142 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
"Admirable," said the padre, "admirable!
But tell me, O'Grady, how is it that an old
sinner like you knows the Holy Scriptures so
" I studied the Book of Samuel a good deal
from an asylum doctor's point of view," said
the doctor. " Saul's neurasthenia interested
me. His attacks are very well described. I
have also diagnosed the madness of Nebuchad-
nezzar. They were two very different types.
Saul was apathetic and Nebuchadnezzar vio-
" I wish you would leave Nebuchadnezzar
alone," said the colonel.
" I am very much afraid of asylum doc-
tors," said Major Parker. " Violent, de-
pressed, or apathetic, we are all mad, accord-
ing to them."
" What do you call mad? " said the doctor.
" I certainly can see in you, and in the colonel,
and Aurelle, all the phenomena which I ob-
served in the asylum."
:< Ugh ! " said the colonel, horrified.
" But I do, sir. Between Aurelle, who for-
gets the war by reading Tolstoi, and some of
my old friends who thought they were Napo-
leon or Mahomet, there is a difference in de-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 143
gree but not in nature. Aurelle browses on
novels from a morbid desire to live the life of
some one else; my patients substitute for their
miserable life that of some great personage
whose history they have read and whose lot
" Oh, I know your objections, Aurelle.
You know, all the time you are dreaming of
the loves of Prince Bolkonsky, that you are
the Interpreter Aurelle, attached to the Len-
nox Highlanders, but when Queen Elizabeth
is scrubbing the floor in my office, she does not
know that she is Mrs. Jones, charwoman, of
Hammersmith. But incoherence is not the
monopoly of madness: all the main ideas of a
sane man are irrational erections built up, for
better or worse, to express his deepest feel-
' Parker," said the colonel, " can you think
of anything to stop him? "
" A No. 5 grenade, sir," said the major.
But the doctor went on imperturbably :
" One of my patients was a country gentle-
man, who after being a model of piety for the
first part of his life suddenly became an athe-
ist. He gave carefully thought-out reasons
for it, and discoursed with a good deal of eru-
144 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
dition on questions of doctrine, but the only
true cause of his conversion to the wrong side
was because his wife ran away with the clergy-
man of his village. OJi, I beg your pardon,
padre, you don't mind, do you? "
" I ? I have not been listening to you for
ages," said the padre, who was dealing out
"It is just the same thing," continued the
doctor, turning to the docile Aurelle, "with
a man who is too refined for the class in which
chance has placed him. At first he is simply
jealous and unhappy. Influenced by these
feelings, he becomes violently critical of society
in order to account for his hate and disap-
" Nietzsche was a genius because he de-
lighted in persecution. Karl Marx was a dan-
gerous maniac. It is only when the feelings
of discontent which he tries to explain coincide
with those of a whole class, or a whole nation,
that the impassioned theorist becomes a
prophet, or a hero; while, if he confines him-
self to explaining that he would rather have
been born an Emperor, they shut him up."
" Moral," said the major, " shut up all the-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 145
" And the doctor," said the colonel.
" No, not all," said the doctor. " We treat
the subject just as the ancients did. All prim-
itive people thought that a lunatic was pos-
sessed by a spirit. When his incoherent words
more or less accord with the moral prejudices
of the time, the spirit is a good one, and the
man is a saint. In the opposite case, the spirit
is evil and the man must be suppressed. It
is just according to the time and place and
the doctors, whether a prophetess would be
worshipped as a priestess or ducked as a witch.
Innumerable violent lunatics have escaped the
cells, thanks to the War, and their very vio-
lence has made heroes of them. And in every
Parliament there are at least five or six undis-
puted idiots who got elected for their mad-
ness, through the admiration of their constit-
" Say five or six hundred," said Major Par-
ker, " and it will be the first sensible thing you
have said to-night."
' That's because my madness agrees with
yours on that subject," said the doctor.
:c Doctor," said the colonel, "you under-
stand treatment by suggestion, don't you? I
wish you would calm down your hospital ser-
146 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
geant a bit. He is so nervous that he begins
to tremble and becomes perfectly speechless if
I speak to him. I really believe I terrify him.
See what you can do, like a good fellow."
Next morning, Dr. O'Grady sent for Ser-
geant Freshwater to his tent and talked kindly
Freshwater, a lean Albino with heavy, stu-
pid eyes, owned that he lost his head whenever
the colonel came near him.
"Well, my friend," said the doctor, "we
will cure you of that in five minutes. Sit
He made some passes to create an atmos-
phere favourable to suggestion, then began:
' You are not afraid of the colonel, you
know he is a man just like you and me you
rather like talking to him. Look closely at
his face when he speaks to you. His mous-
tache is always cut a little too short on the left
The doctor went on like this for a quarter
of an hour describing the rugged features and
funny ways of the colonel, then sent away the
sergeant, telling him that he was cured, and
not to forget it the first time he met his com-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 147
A few hours later, Colonel Bramble, going
out for his lunch, met the hospital sergeant on
one of the duck-boards used for going through
the camp. Freshwater stepped on one side,
saluted, and began to laugh silently.
"Whatever is the matter, sergeant?" said
the astonished colonel.
" Oh, sir," replied Freshwater in fits of
laughter, " I cannot help laughing when I look
at you, you have such a funny face ! "
The colonel, in a few well-chosen words, de-
stroyed the doctor's learned suggestions for
ever; then, establishing himself in front of the
tinned lobster, he complimented O'Grady on
his miraculous cure.
" I have never seen," said the padre, " any
creatures so stupid, so wicked, so rotten, or so
dense as English doctors."
" Medicine is a very old joke," said Major
Parker, " but it still goes on. Now, doctor,
tell the truth for once: what do you know more
than we do about illnesses and their reme-
" That's right," said the padre, " attack his
religion; he often attacks mine."
* When I was in India," said the colonel,
" an old army doctor gave me for every mal-
148 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
ady the remedy which just suited me. For
palpitations of the heart, a large glass of
brandy; for insomnia, three of four glasses of
port after dinner; for stomachic disorders, a
bottle of dry champagne at each meal. And,
as long as one was feeling well, whisky and
"Excellent, sir," said Aurelle. "Before
the War I drank nothing but water and I was
always ill; since I have been with you I have
adopted whisky and I feel much better."
" Yes, you look it," said the colonel. " I
had a friend, Major Fetherstonhaugh, who
began to have fits of dizziness when he was
about forty; he went to see a doctor who
thought it was the whisky and advised him to
drink milk for a time; well, in ten days he
" And a good thing too," said the padre.
" But I expect " began the doctor.
"Happy are those who expect nothing,"
said the padre, " for they shall not be dis-
'What, you too, padre!" said the doctor.
' Take care ; if you ruin doctors by your ma-
levolent remarks, I shall found a society for
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 149
the exportation to the Colonies of mechanical
idols and ovens for cooking missionaries."
e That is an excellent idea," said the padre.
" I must see about it."
THE brigade, kept in reserve for the divi-
sion, was ordered to go and camp at
H . As a dentist measures the ex-
tent of a cavity at a glance, the men of the
Lennox, expert in bombardments, cast a pro-
fessional eye over the village. Round the
chateau and the church it was done for: houses
in ruins, pavements torn up, trees smashed.
The weaving factory had been badly damaged.
The rest was not so unhealthy, a little knocked
about, perhaps, but habitable.
The house where Colonel Bramble had
established his Mess had already been hit by
a shell. It had burst in the garden, breaking
the window-panes and marking the walls.
Madame, a dear little old lady, made light
of these blemishes, which had depreciated her
house in value.
" Oh, just a shell, monsieur Vofficier! " she
said. " Quite a small shell; I put the base of
it there on my mantelpiece. It's nothing, as
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 151
you can see. True, they make a mess of
everything, but I am not afraid of them! "
The colonel asked her how many windows
had been broken.
" I don't like this house," said the padre,
as they sat down to dinner.
6 The life of a soldier," replied the colonel,
" is one of great hardship, not infrequently
mingled with moments of real danger."
" Be not dismayed, padre," said the doctor.
" Shells fall like drops of water: if it rains
much the whole pavement gets wet."
c The Lennox Mess has always been lucky,"
said Major Parker.
" Luck is nothing," said the doctor.
" One can see you are not a gambler," re-
" One can see that you are not a mathema-
tician," said the doctor.
The padre expostulated:
"What? Luck nothing? How about lit-
tle Taylor, killed by a shell in Poperinghe Sta-
tion at the very moment that he was arriving
at the front for the first time! You don't
call that bad luck?"
" Not more than if an old habitue like me
was wiped out by a whizz-bang, padre. You
152 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
are astonished at Taylor being killed the first
minute, just as you would be surprised if, in
a lottery of a million tickets, Number One
should win, although that number had ob-
viously as much chance as, say, 327,645. Some
one must be the last man killed in this war,
but you will see that his family will not think
' You are a fanatic, O'Grady," said Parker,
" you must have an explanation for every-
thing; there are more things in heaven and
earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.
I believe, myself, in good luck and bad luck
because I have noticed it : I believe in pre-
sentiments because I have had them, and
events have confirmed them. When I was
being sent home, after the Transvaal War, I
got an order to embark on a certain ship.
Well, two days before it started I suddenly
had a presentiment that I must avoid sailing
in that ship at all costs. I went sick and
waited a fortnight longer. The transport I
missed was completely lost and no one ever
knew how. Then again, why are you so cer-
tain, doctor, that aspirin will cure your head-
ache? Because aspirin has cured it before.
Where's the difference? "
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 153
" The major is right," said Aurelle. " To
say that you do not believe in a man's bad
luck because you cannot find it at his autopsy,
is like saying that the tuner has taken the
piano to pieces, and therefore Mozart had no
The quartermaster, who was dining with
them that evening, threw his weight into dis-
" There are things that cannot be explained,
doctor. For instance, I hit you in the face:
you shut your eye why? "
There was an astounded silence.
" Another instance," remarked the padre at
last. " Why is it that if there is a pause in
the conversation, it is always twenty minutes
to, or twenty minutes past, the hour? "
" But that's not true," said the doctor.
" It was true this time, anyhow," said
Aurelle, looking at his watch.
' It may be once or twice," said the doctor
irritably, " but it cannot always happen."
" All right, doctor, all right," said the padre.
" You notice it for several days and I think
you will change your mind."
The colonel said:
" My men tell me that if a shell falls on a
154 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
dug-out where there are gunners and infantry,
the latter are killed and the gunners are
" But it is not true, sir."
" And why must one never light three ciga-
rettes with the same match? "
" But you may, sir, it does not matter a bit."
"Ah, there I disagree with you, doctor,"
said the colonel. " I am not superstitious, but
I would not do that fdr anything in the world."
"Why do people dressed in green always
lose at Monte Carlo? " said Aurelle.
" But it is not true! " roared the doctor, ex-
" It is easy to argue like you," said Parker.
"Everything you do not agree with is not
" There are," said the padre, " no creatures
so wicked and so dense as English doctors."
" Messiou," said the colonel, " are the gun-
ners equally lucky in the French Army? "
" I have often remarked it," said Aurelle,
who liked Colonel Bramble very much.
The colonel therefore triumphed, and tried
to put an end to the discussion, which bored
" I am so very sorry," he said, " I cannot
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 155
give you the gramophone to-night. I have no
' That is a pity," said the padre.
The window-panes shook; a big gun went
off close to the house. Aurelle went to the
window and saw behind a farm, silhouetted in
black against the orange twilight of the sky,
a yellowish smoke, slowly dispersing.
' There's the old man beginning to strafe
again," said the padre. " I don't like this
' You will have to put up with it, padre ; the
Staff captain won't give us another; he's a
boy who knows his own mind."
6 Yes," said the colonel, " he is a very nice
boy too; he is one of Lord Bamford's sons."
" His father, the old Lord, was a fine rider,"
:c His sister," replied the colonel, " married
a cousin of Graham, who was a major in our
first battalion at the beginning of the War,
and is now a brigadier-general."
Aurelle, foreseeing that such an interesting
subject, so rich in the possibility of unexpected
developments, would occupy the entire eve-
ning, tried to scribble some verses, still medi-
tating on luck and chance.
156 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Pascal, thou said'st if Cleopatra's nose
Had shorter been, we were not where we are . . .
A new and formidable detonation put a
subtle rhyme out of his head; discouraged, he
I trust you will not look askance
For once I deal in platitude;
To-night, to laws of luck and chance
The Mess defines its attitude.
Another shell fell so close that the colonel
got up suddenly.
" They are beginning to bombard the cha-
teau again," he said. " I am going to see
where that one fell."
Major Parker and the doctor followed him
into the street, but Aurelle, who was again
rhyming, stayed with the padre, who had just
begun the same patience for the fourteenth
time that evening. The three officers had gone
about a hundred yards when another explosion
took place behind them.
' That one was not far from the Mess," said
the doctor. " I, am going to tell Madame to
go down into the cellar."
He retraced his steps and found a new shell-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 157
hole in front of the house. The house seemed
all right ; through the broken window the doc-
tor saw the padre and called out to him:
" A near thing that time, padre. Are you
all right? Where is Aurelle?"
But the padre did not move: with his head
leaning on his arms crossed over the scattered
cards, he appeared to be gazing vaguely at the
doctor, who entered at a bound and touched
the padre on the shoulder.
He was dead. A piece of shell had entered
his temple, which was bleeding slowly. Au-
relle had fallen on the floor. He was uncon-
scious and covered with blood, but the doctor,
bending over him, found that he still breathed.
As he was unfastening his tunic and shirt, the
colonel and Parker arrived with their meas-
ured tread and stopped abruptly at the door.
6 The padre has been killed, sir," said the
doctor simply. " Aurelle is hit, too, but I
don't think it is serious. No, it's his shoulder
The colonel groaned sympathetically.
Parker helped O'Grady to lay the French-
man on a table ; a crumpled piece of paper at-
tracted the colonel's attention ; he picked it up
and read with difficultv:
158 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
Why must you ever close my eyes
Before you kiss my lips?
" What is it all about? " he said.
" It belongs to Aurelle," said the doctor.
The colonel carefully folded the little sheet
of paper and slid it respectfully into the young
Frenchman's pocket. Then, after the doctor
had finished dressing the wound and had sent
for an ambulance, they laid the padre on
Madame's humble bed. They all took their
hats off and stood silent for some time con-
templating the strangely softened features of
the childlike old man.
The doctor looked at his watch; it was
twenty minutes past nine.
AURELLE, on leaving hospital, was at-
tached, while convalescent, to the Eng-
lish colonel, Musgrave, who commanded
a supply depot at Estrees, a little village well
behind the line. He missed the evenings with
the Lennox Mess, but buying fodder and wood
took him some way out into the pretty undu-
lating country with its clear streams, and he
loved Estrees, hiding its innumerable belfries
among the flowery hills.
It was a very antique city, and in its youth,
in the time of the seigneurs of Estrees, had
played an important part in the affairs of
France. For several hundred years she had
defended her ramparts against the troops of
the Kings of England, and from her walls she
could see those same soldiers to-day camped
about her, this time as familiar and courteous
guests. Her tenacious burghers had repulsed
both Leaguers and Spaniards with equal suc-
cess. She now slept in smiling old age, hav-
160 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
ing seen too many things to be surprised any
more, while still retaining from the times of
her glory her casket of beautiful mansions,
built among courts and gardens with the noble
simplicity of line dating from the best periods.
Colonel Musgrave and his officers inhabited
the large and handsome house of the Dutch
merchant, Van Mopez, whom Colbert had
established at Estrees to introduce the art of
weaving and dyeing cloth. Aurelle liked to
go and sit in the garden and read a History
of Estrees written by Monsieur Jean Valines,
correspondence member of the Amiens Acad-
emy, and author of " Nouvelles observations
sur les miracles de la chapelle d'Estrees."
This excellent work contained accounts of
the great rejoicings and high festivals with
which Estrees the Faithful had received the
Kings, when they came to kneel and worship
at the feet of the miraculous image in the
Chapel of St. Ferreol.
The municipal worthies, between the royal
visits, prudently and carefully preserved the
white and blue draperies embroidered with
fleurs-de-lis, and the decorations of painted
The Revolution had rather upset these do-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 161
mestic arrangements; the fleurs-de-lis had to
be removed and a red fringe sewn along the
blue and white draperies, so that the square
of Saint-Ferreol could be decorated at a small
cost for the fete of the Supreme Being.
Aurelle loved the description:
" The cortege, preceded by music and
drums, consisted first of a half-company of the
National Guard carrying a banner on which
was inscribed: 'Up with the People, down
" Then carne the mothers of families carry-
ing their infants in their arms ; children of both
sexes clothed in the most beautiful ornaments
of their age innocence and candour; young
girls adorned with their charms and virtues;
and the members of that Society so dreaded
by traitors, in which were united the defenders
of the truth, the upholders of public opinion,
and the indefatigable guardians of the people.
' The whole cortege gathered at the foot of
a mound erected in the square of Saint-
Ferreol. There, the people of Estrees swore
fidelity to the laws of nature and humanity,
and subsequently a group of figures represent-
ing Despotism and Imposture were consumed
by flames ; Wisdom arose out of the ashes and
162 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
on his shield was written: ' I guard the
Aurelle turned over some pages, very few,
for, as Monsieur Jean Valines said, the happy
sterility of the archives of Estrees during the
Revolution recorded no other facts worthy of
notice than two fetes, a fire, and a flood.
Next came the visit of the First Consul. He
came to Estrees accompanied by his wife and
several general officers, and was received by
the authorities under a triumphal arch, erected
at the Saint-Ferreol Gate, adorned with this
inscription: "The Grateful Inhabitants of
this City swear Allegiance and Fidelity to the
Conqueror of Marengo."
The Mayor presented the keys of the town
on a silver dish covered with bay leaves. " I
take them, citoyen maire, and I return them
to you," replied Bonaparte.
" The National Guard lined the route and
cries of c Long live Bonaparte! Long live the
First Consul!' were repeated enthusiastically
a thousand times. The First Consul visited
the Van Mopez factory and distributed a day's
pay among the workmen. The day ended
with illuminations and a brilliant ball.
" A short time after his marriage with
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 163
Marie-Louise, Napoleon came back, accom-
panied by the Empress. The square of Saint-
Ferreol was a magnificent spectacle, decorated
with red and white draperies and garlands of
green leaves. A triumphal arch had been
erected with the inscription: f Augusto Napo-
leoni Augustoeque Mariae Ludovicae Strata-
ville semper fidelis.* J
A few more pages further on and it was
March, 1814; for six days no couriers got
through to Estrees from Paris, and then she
heard of the fall of the Emperor.
" At three o'clock in the afternoon, the mag-
istrates, assembled in the Town Hall, sum-
moned the inhabitants with the ringing of
bells. The Mayor appeared on the balcony
of the large hall and proclaimed the allegiance
of the town to the restored Bourbons. The
spectators received this speech with oft-
repeated cries of * Long live the King! ' ' Long
live Louis XVIII ! ' and all put on the white
" The news soon came that Louis XVIII
had landed at Calais and that he would pass
through Estrees. A guard of honour was
formed and a triumphal arch was erected at
the Saint-Ferreol gate. It bore this inscrip-
164 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
tion: ' Regibus usque suis urbs Stratavilla
" The clergy from every parish approached
to compliment the King, and the Mayor pre-
sented the keys of the town on a silver dish
adorned with fleurs-de-lis. The King replied,
* Monsieur le maire, I take the flowers, and
give you back the keys.' Then the sailors and
footmen unharnessed the horses from the car-
riage, and drew him themselves into the town.
The excitement of the crowd was impossible
to describe; every house was decorated with
blue and white draperies and green garlands,
mottoes and white flags, covered with fleurs-
" The King was present at a Te Deum sung
in Saint-Ferreol, and repaired, still drawn by
sailors, to the Abbey of Saint-Pierre, where
he was to lodge the night."
The evening drew slowly in; the quaint,
thick lettering of the old book was becoming
indistinct, but Aurelle wanted to finish the
melancholy history of these inconstant people.
Skipping the triumphal entry of Charles X,
he came to the July insurrection.
" On the 29th of July, 1830, there were no
newspapers; but letters and a few travellers
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 165
arriving from Paris announced that the tri-
colour flag had been hoisted on the towers of
Notre-Dame. A few days later they learnt
that the fighting had stopped, and that the
heroic population of the capital remained in
possession of all their outposts.
:c Louis-Philippe, accompanied by the
Dukes of Orleans and Nemours, soon after
passed Estrees on his way to Lille. He was
received under a triumphal arch by the Mayor
and Corporation. Kvery house was hung with
draperies in the three colours. An immense
crowd filled the air with their acclamations.
The King arrived at the square of Saint-
Ferreol, where the National Guard and sev-
eral companies of douaniers awaited him.
' The various corps of the urban guards in
their best clothes ; the strangeness of the rural
guards, with a large number of Napoleon's
old soldiers in their ranks with their original
uniforms; the intrepid seamen of Cayeux
carrying in triumph their fishing prizes, ten
old tricolour banners; the sailors, with their
carbines, bandoliers and cutlasses in their
hands, all made the gayest of spectacles, and
the picturesque fete delighted the King and
the officers of his staff."
166 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
There Jean Valines' book concluded, but
Aurelle, while watching the garden fading
slowly in the twilight, amused himself by
imagining what followed. A visit from La-
martine, no doubt; then one from Napoleon
III, the triumphal arches and inscriptions, and
quite lately, perhaps, Carnot or Fallieres re-
ceiving from the mayor, in the square of
Saint-Ferreol, the assurance of the unalter-
able devotion of the faithful people of Estrees
to the Republic. Then in the future: un-
known governors, the decorations, perhaps red,
perhaps blue, until the day when some blind
god would come and crush with his heel this
venerable human ant-hill.
"And each time," he mused, "the enthu-
siasm is sincere and the vows loyal, and these
honest tradesmen rejoice to see passing
through their ancient portals the new rulers,
in the choice of whom they have had no part.
" Happy province ! You quietly accept the
Empires which Paris brings forth with pain,
and the downfall of a government means no
more to you than changing the words of a
speech or the flowers on a silver dish. If Dr.
O'Grady were here he would quote Ecclesi-
astes to me,"
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 167
He tried to remember it:
" What profit hath a man of all his labour
which he taketh under the sun?
" One generation passeth away, and another
generation cometh; but the earth abideth for
" The thing that hath been, it is that which
shall be; and that which is done is that which
shall be done ; and there is no new thing under
" Aurelle," said Colonel Musgrave, who had
quietly approached, " if you want to see the
bombardment after dinner, go up to the top
of the hill. The sky is all lit up. We attack
And a distant muffled thundering floated on
the calm evening air. A melancholy and an-
cient peal of bells rang out from the Spanish
belfry in the market-place. The first stars
twinkled above the two ironical towers of the
church of Saint-Ferreol, and the proud old
town fell asleep to the familiar sound of battle.
IN the soft evening air the garden drowses ;
" J'ai du bon tabac " thinly sounds afar ;
The bells are chiming slow, and, farther, rouses
The distant, instant, deep-felt voice of war.
One star stands out upon the darkling sky ;
Against the west the tree-tops draw, outlined,
A woodcut, Japanese, the moon behind;
A voice, singing; dogs bark; the day is by.
Life seems so sweet, so calm the valley's mood,
That, did not bitter memories undeceive,
On such a night almost could one believe
This false world was of God that God was good.
But even now, where the faint hills decline,
Under this very sky, now calm as when
Its peace was real past that near confine,
The gates of hell yawn wide for living men.
Musgrave was drinking his
\A coffee in the handsome salon of the mer-
chant, Van Mopez; he opened a pink
official telegram and read:
" Director of Commissariat to Colonel Mus-
grave. Marseilles Indian Depot overcrowded
meet special train 1000 goats with native
goatherds find suitable quarters and organize
" Damn the goats! " he said.
His job being to feed Australians, he
thought it hard that he had to bear in addition
the consequences of the religious laws of the
Hindoos. But nothing troubled Colonel
Musgrave long; he sent for his interpreter.
" Aurelle," he said, " I am expecting a thou-
sand goats this evening ; you will take my mo-
tor and scour the country. I must have a suit-
able piece of ground in five hours and a small
building for the shepherds. If the owner re-
170 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
fuses to let you hire them, you will comman-
deer them. Have a cigar? Good-bye."
Having thus disposed of this first anxiety,
he turned to his adjutant.
" We now want an O. C. Goats! " he said.
" It will be an excellent reason for getting
rid of Captain Cassell, who arrived yesterday.
Captain! I asked him what he did in peace-
time musical critic of the Morning Leader! "
So that is Kow Captain Cassell, musical
critic, was promoted goatherd-in-chief. Au-
relle found a farmer's wife whose husband had
been called up, and he persuaded her, at the
cost of much eloquence, that the presence of
a thousand goats in her orchards would be the
beginning of all sorts of prosperity. He went
in the evening to the station with Cassell to
fetch the goats, and they both passed through
the town at the head of the picturesque flock,
herded by ancient Indians, who looked exactly
like the shepherds in the Bible.
Colonel Musgrave ordered Cassell to send
him a hundred goats per day for the front.
After the fourth day Cassell sent over a short
note by one of the children from the farm,
announcing, as if it were quite a natural thing,
that his flock would be exhausted the next day
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 171
and asking for another contingent of goats.
On opening this extraordinary missive, the
colonel was so choked with rage that he forgot
to proclaim, according to custom, that Cassell
was a damned fool. The numbers were too
simple for an error to be possible. Cassell
had received one thousand goats; he had sent
off four hundred, he ought to have six hun-
The colonel ordered his car and commanded
Aurelle to take him to the farm. A pretty,
deeply cut road led them there. The build-
ings were in the rustic, solid style of the end
of the eighteenth century.
" It is a charming spot," said the interpre-
ter, proud of his find.
"Where is that damned fellow Cassell?"
said the colonel.
They found him in the kitchen having a
French lesson from the farmer's daughter.
He got up with the easy grace of a rural gen-
tleman whom friends from town had surprised
in his hermitage.
" Hullo, colonel," he said, " I am very glad
to see you."
The colonel went straight to the point:
"What's this damned letter that you sent
IJ2 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
me this morning? You received a thousand
goats; you sent me four hundred of them.
Show me the others."
The ground behind the farm sloped gently
down to a wooded valley; it was planted with
apple-trees. Near a stable, sitting in the mud,
the Hindoo shepherds tasted prematurely the
joys of Nirvana.
A horrible smell arose from the valley, and,
coming nearer, the colonel saw about a hun-
dred swollen and rotting carcases of goats
scattered about the enclosure. A few thin
kids dismally gnawed the bark of the apple-
trees. In the distance, among the copses
which covered the other side of the valley, one
could see goats which had escaped browsing
on the young trees. At this lamentable sight,
Aurelle pitied the unfortunate Cassell.
The colonel maintained a hostile and dan-
" Isn't it beautiful, colonel," said the musi-
cal critic with soft and stilted speech, " to see
all those little white spots among the green? "
" Could not one," suggested Aurelle on the
return journey, " ask the advice of a compe-
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 173
tent man? Perhaps goats cannot stand sleep-
ing out of doors in this damp climate, and per-
haps also they are not being fed properly."
The colonel frowned.
" In the South African war," he said after
a silence, " we used a large number of oxen
for our transport. One day these damned
oxen started dying by hundreds, and no one
knew why. Great excitement at headquarters.
Some general found an expert, who, after bor-
ing the whole army with his questions, ended
by declaring that the oxen were cold. He had
noticed the same sickness in the north of India.
There they protected the beasts by making
them wear special clothing. Any normal in-
dividual with common sense could see that the
oxen were simply overworked. But the re-
port followed its course, and arrived at gen-
eral headquarters, and from there they wired
to India for a few thousand rugs for cattle.
"So far all went well, the oxen died as fast
as ever, the well-paid expert had a damned
good time up to the arrival of the rugs. It
is very easy to put clothing on an Indian cow
who waits patiently with lowered head. But
an African bullock you try, and see what it's
174 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
like. After several trials, our drivers refused
to do it. They sent for the expert and said
to him, ' You asked for rugs for the beasts :
here they are. Show us how to put them on.'
He was damned lucky to get out of hospital
in six months."
That same evening another pink telegram
arrived from the Director of Commissariat:
" Goats arrive at the front half dead pray
take steps that these animals may have some
wish to live."
Colonel Musgrave then decided to telegraph
to Marseilles and ask for an expert on goats.
The expert arrived two days later, a fat
farmer from the South, sergeant of Territo-
rials. With the help of Aurelle, he had a long
conversation with the colonel.
" There is one thing," he said, " that goats
cannot get on without, and that is heat. You
must make very low wooden sheds for them;
without any openings; let them stew in their
own juice, and they will be happy! "
He remarked to the interpreter when the
colonel had gone, " Didn't I tell them a good
tale about their goats, he? In the South they
live out in the open and are as well as you or
I. But let's talk seriously. Couldn't you get
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 175
your English to manage an extension of leave
for me, to look after their beasts, he? "
They had begun to build the huts described
by the man from the South, when the Indian
Corps wrote to Colonel Musgrave that they
had discovered a British expert whom they
were sending him.
The new seer was an artillery officer, but
goats filled his life. Aurelle, who looked after
him a good deal, found out that he regarded
everything in nature from the point of view
of a goat. A Gothic cathedral, according to
him, was a poor shelter for goats; not enough
air, but that could be remedied by breaking the
His first advice was to mix molasses with
the fodder which was given to the animals.
It was supposed to fatten them and cure them
of that distinguished melancholy which the
Indian troops complained of. Large bowls of
molasses were therefore distributed to the
Hindoo shepherds. The goats remained thin
and sad, but the shepherds grew fat. These
results surprised the expert.
Then he was shown the plans of the huts.
He was astounded.
" If there is one thing in the world that
1 76 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
goats cannot do without," he said, "it is air.
They must have very lofty stables with large
Colonel Musgrave asked him no more. He
thanked him with extreme politeness, then sent
"Now listen to me," he said: "you know
Lieutenant Honeysuckle, the goat expert?
Well, I never wish to see him again. I order
you to go and find a new farm with him. I
forbid you to find it. If you can manage to
drown him, to run over him with my car, or
to get him eaten by the goats, I will recom-
mend you for the Military Cross. If he re-
appears here before my huts are finished, I
will have you shot. Be off! "
A week later Lieutenant Honeysuckle
broke his leg by falling off his horse in a farm-
yard. The Territorial from Marseilles was
sent back to his corps. As for the goats, one
fine day they stopped dying, and no one ever
found out why.
ONE morning, Aurelle, seeing an Eng-
lish Staff officer come into his office in
a gold-peaked hat with a red band, was
surprised and delighted to recognize Major
" Hullo, sir! I am glad to see you again!
But you never told me about that " and he
pointed to the signs of authority.
" Well," said the major, " I wrote and told
you that Colonel Bramble had been made a
general. He now commands our old brigade
and I am his brigade major. I have just been
down to the Base to inspect our reinforce-
ments, and the general ordered me to pick you
up on the way back and bring you in to lunch.
He will send you back this evening. Your
colonel is quite agreeable. We are camped
for the moment next to the village where the
padre was killed; the general thought you
would like to see his grave."
Two hours later they drew near the front
178 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
and Aurelle recognized the familiar land-
marks: the little English military village with
a policeman holding up his hand at every cor-
ner; the large market town, scarcely bom-
barded, but having here and there a roof with
its beams exposed; the road, where one occa-
sionally met a man in a flat steel helmet loaded
like a mule; the village, the notice boards,
' This road is under observation," and sud-
denly, a carefully camouflaged battery bark-
ing out of a thicket.
But Major Parker, who had seen these
things every day for three years, discoursed on
one of his favourite themes:
" The soldier, Aurelle, is always done in by
the tradesman and the politician. England
will pay ten thousand a year to a lawyer or a
banker, but when she has splendid fellows like
me who conquer empires and keep them for
her, she only gives them just enough to keep
their polo ponies. And again
" It is just the same in France " began
Aurelle; but the car stopped suddenly oppo-
site the church of a nightmare village, and he
recognized H . " Poor old village, how
it has changed!" he said.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 179
The church, ashamed, now showed its pro-
faned nave ; the few houses still standing were
merely two triangles of stone sadly facing one
another; and the high building of the weaving
factory, hit by a shell in the third story, was
bent over like a poplar in a storm.
"Will you follow me?" said the major.
" We have had to put the H.Q. of the brigade
outside the village, which was becoming un-
healthy. Walk twenty paces behind me; the
sausage balloon is up and it's no good show-
ing them the road."
Aurelle followed for a quarter of an hour
through the bushes, and suddenly found him-
self face to face with General Bramble who,
standing at the entrance to a dug-out, was
watching a suspicious aeroplane.
" Ah, messiou! " he said. " That's good! "
And the whole of his rugged red face lit up
with a ] kindly smile.
" It will be like a lunch in the old days,"
he continued, after Aurelle had congratulated
him. ;< I sent the Staff captain out with the
interpreter for we have another interpreter
now, messiou I thought you would not like
to see him in your place. But he has not
180 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
really replaced you, messiou ; and I telephoned
to the Lennox to send the doctor to lunch
He showed them into the Mess and gave
Major Parker a few details of what had been
" Nothing important ; they have spoilt the
first line a bit at E 17 A. We had a little
strafe last night. The division wanted a pris-
oner, so as to identify the Boche reliefs yes,
yes, that was all right the Lennox went to
fetch him. I have seen the man, but I haven't
had their written report yet."
' What, not since last night? " said Parker.
" What else have they got to do? "
' You see, messiou," said tjie general, " the
good old times are over. Parker no longer
abuses red hats. No doubt they are abusing
him in that little wood you see down there."
"It is true," said Parker, " that one must
be on the Staff to realize the importance of
work done there. The Staff is really a brain
without which no movement of the regiment
" You hear, messiou? " said the general.
' It is no longer the same; it will never be the
same again. The padre will not be there to
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 181
talk to us about Scotland and to abuse bish-
ops. And I have no longer got my gramo-
phone, messiou. I left it to the regiment with
all my records. The life of the soldier is one
of great hardship, messiou, but we had a jolly
little Mess with the Lennox, hadn't we? "
The doctor appeared at the entrance to the
" Come in, O'Grady, come in. Late as
usual; there is no creature so wicked and so
dense as you."
The lunch was very like those of the good
old times for there were already good old
times in this War, which was no longer in the
flower of its youth the orderlies handed
boiled potatoes and mutton with mint sauce,
and Aurelle had a friendly little discussion
with the doctor.
' When do you think war will be finished,
Aurelle?" said the doctor.
' When we win," cut in the general.
But the doctor meant the League of Na-
tions: he did not believe in a final war.
' It is a fairly consistent law of humanity,"
he said, " that men spend about half their lives
at war. A Frenchman, called Lapouge, cal-
culated that from the year 1100 to the year
1 82 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
1500, England had been 207 years at war,
and 212 years from 1500 to 1900. In France
the corresponding figures would be 192 and
' That is very interesting," said the general.
" According to that same man Lapouge,
nineteen million men are killed in war every
century. Their blood would fill three million
barrels of 180 litres each, and would feed a
fountain of blood running 700 litres an hour
from the beginning of history."
" Ugh! " said the general.
"All that does not prove, doctor," said
Aurelle, " that your fountain will go on run-
ning. For many centuries murder has been
an institution, and nevertheless courts of jus-
tice have been established."
" Murder," said the doctor, " never appears
to have been an honoured institution among
primitive peoples. Cain had no reason to care
for the justice of his country, if I mistake not.
Besides, law courts have not suppressed mur-
derers. They punish them, which is not the
same thing. A certain number of interna-
tional conflicts might be settled by civil tribu-
nals, but there will always be wars of passion."
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 183
"Have you read * The Great Illusion'?"
" Yes," said the major, " it's a misleading
book. It pretends to show that war is use-
less, because it is not profitable. We know
that very well, but who fights for profit?
England did not take part ir) this war to con-
quer, but to defend her honour. As for be-
lieving that Democracies would be pacific,
that's nonsense. A nation worthy of the name
is even more susceptible than a monarch. The
Royal Era was the age of gold, preceding the
Iron Age of the people."
c There's an argument just like the old
days," said the general. " Both are right,
both are wrong. That's capital! Now, doc-
tor, tell me the story about your going on
leave and I shall be perfectly happy."
After lunch, they all four went to see the
padre's grave. It was in a little cemetery sur-
rounded by weeds ; the ground broken up here
and there by recent shell-holes. The padre
lay between two lieutenants of twenty. Corn-
flowers and other wild plants had spread a
living mantle over all three graves.
" After the war," said General Bramble, " if
184 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
I am still alive, I shall have a stone carved
with ' Here lies a soldier and a sportsman.'
That will please him."
The other three remained silent, restraining
their emotion with difficulty. Aurelle seemed
to hear, in the murmuring summer air, the un-
dying strains of " Destiny Waltz " and saw
the padre setting out once more on horseback,
his pockets bulging with hymn-books and ciga-
rettes for the men. The doctor meditated:
' Where two or three are gathered together,
there I will be in the midst of them.' What a
profound and true saying! And how the re-
ligion of the dead still lives."
" Come," said the general, " we must go,
the Boche sausage is up in the air, and we are
four; it is too many. They tolerate two, but
we must not abuse their courtesy. I am going
on up to the trenches. You, Parker, will take
Aurelle back, and if you want to go with them,
doctor, I will tell your colonel that I have
given you leave for the afternoon."
The three friends passed slowly across the
silent plains, which only a few months before
had been the formidable battlefield of the
Somme. As far as the eye could see, there
were low, undulating hillocks covered with
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 185
thick, coarse grass, groups of mutilated tree-
trunks marking the place of the famous wood,
and millions of poppies made these dead fields
glow with a warm and coppery light. A few
tenacious rose-trees, with lovely fading roses,
had remained alive in this wilderness, beneath
which slept the dead. Here and there posts,
bearing painted notices, like those on a sta-
tion platform, recalled villages unknown yes-
terday, but now ranking with those of Mara-
thon or Bivoli: Contalmaison, Martinpuich,
' I hope," said Aurelle, looking at the in-
numerable little crosses, here grouped together
as in cemeteries, there isolated, " that this
ground will be consecrated to the dead who
won it, and that this country will be kept as
an immense rustic cemetery, where children
may come to learn the story of heroes."
"What an idea!" said the doctor. "No
doubt the graves will be respected; but they
will have good crops all round them in two
years' time. The land is too rich to remain
widowed; look at that superb lot of corn-
flowers on those half -healed scars."
And truly, a little further on, some of the
villages seemed, like convalescents, to be tast-
1 86 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
ing the joy of life once more. Shop windows
crowded with English goods in many-coloured
packets brightened up the ruined houses. As
they passed through a straggling village of
Spanish aspect the doctor resumed:
" Yes, this is a marvellous land. Every na-
tion in Europe has conquered it in turn; it
has defeated its conqueror every time."
" Tf we go a little out of the way," said
Parker, "we could visit the battlefield of
Crecy; it would interest me. I hope you are
not annoyed with us, Aurelle, for having
beaten Philippe de Valois? Your military
history is too glorious for you to have any
resentment for events which took place so long
" My oldest resentments do not last six hun-
dred years," said Aurelle. " Crecy was an
honourably-contested match ; we can shake
hands over it."
The chauffeur was told to turn to the west,
and they arrived on the site of Crecy by the
same lower road taken by Philippe's army.
" The English," said Parker, " were drawn
up on the hill facing us, their right towards
Crecy, their left at Vadicourt, that little vil-
lage you see down there. They were about
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 187
thirty thousand; there were a hundred thou-
sand French. The latter appeared about
three o'clock in the afternoon, and immediately
there was a violent thunderstorm."
" I observe," said the doctor, " that the
heavens thought it funny to water an offen-
sive even in those days."
Parker explained the disposition of the two
armies, and the varying fortunes of the battle.
Aurelle, who was not listening, admired the
woods, the quiet villages, the yellowing grass
of the fields, and saw in imagination swarms
of men and horses riding up to the assault of
this peaceful hill.
" Finally," concluded the major, " when the
King of France and his army had left the field
of battle, Edward invited the principal corps
commanders to dinner, and they all ate and
drank with great rejoicings because of the
good luck which had befallen them."
' How very English, that invitation to dine
at the King's Mess," said Aurelle.
4 Then," continued Parker, " he ordered
one Renaud de Ghehoben to take all the
knights and clerks who knew heraldry "
' The units," said the doctor, " will render to
His Majesty's H.Q., not later than this eve-
1 88 The Silence of Colonel Bramble
ning, a nominal roll of all barons who have
passed their heraldry test."
" And commanded them to count the dead,
and to write down the names of all the knights
whom they could recognize."
" The adjutant-general will compile a re-
turn of noble persons stating who have been
killed, including their rank," said the doctor.
" Renaud found eleven princes, thirteen
hundred knights and sixteen thousand foot
Heavy black clouds were showing up
against the brilliant sunshine: a storm was
coming over the hill. By the valley of
Renaud's clerks, they climbed up on to the
summit and Parker looked for the tower from
which Edward had watched the battle.
" I thought," he said, " that it had been
made into a mill, but I don't see one on the
Aurelle, noticing a few old peasants, helped
by children, cutting corn in the next field,
went up to them and asked them where the
"The tower? There is no tower in these
parts," one of them said, " nor mill either."
" Perhaps we are wrong," said the major.
The Silence of Colonel Bramble 189
Ask him if this is really where the battle
'The battle?" replied the old man.
And the people of Crecy turned back to
their work, binding into neat sheaves the corn
of this invincible land.
A Mort passe; le Destin chante;
Tes robes noires sont charmantes ;
Mets-les six mois.
Garde-toi de venir en pleurs
M'offrir des roses;
Aux vivants reserve tes fleurs
Et toutes choses.
Ne me plains pas, je dormirai
Et de mon corps je nourrirai
Des herbes folles. . . .
Mais si, par quelque soir d'automne
On de brouillard,
Pour ton visage de madone
Tu veux le fard
De cet air de melancolie
Que j'aimais tant,
Alors oublie que tu m'oublies
Pour un instant."
Quelque part en France.
LES soldats passent en chantant :
" Mets tes soucis dans ta musette." *
II pleut, il vente, il fait un temps
A ne pas suivre, une grisette.
Les soldats passent en chantant,
Moi, je fais des vers pour Josette;
Les soldats passent en chantant:
" Mets tes soucis dans ta musette."
Un planton va dans un instant
M'apporter de vieilles gazettes :
Vieux discours de vieux charlatans,
" Mets tes soucis dans ta musette."
Nous passons nos plus beaux printemps
A ces royales amusettes;
Les soldats passent en chantant:
" Mets tes soucis dans ta musette."
La pluie, sur les vitres battant
Orchestre, comme une mazette,
Quelque prelude de Tristan,
Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag."
" Mets tes soucis dans ta musette.'*
Demain sans doute un percutant
M'enverra faire la causette
Aux petits soupers de Satan.
" Mets tes soucis dans ta musette."
Les soldats passent en chantant.
DANS votre salon directoire
(Bleu lavande et jaune citron)
De vieux fauteuils voisineront
Dans un style contradictoire
Avec un divan sans histoire
(Bleu lavande et jaune citron).
A des merveilleuses notoires
(Bleu lavande et jaune citron)
Des muscadins a cinq chevrons
Diront la prochaine victoire,
En des domains ostentatoires
(Bleu lavande et jaune citron).
Les murs nus comme un mur d'eglise
(Bleu lavande et jaune citron)
Quelque temps encore attendront
Qu'un premier consul brutalise
Leur calme et notre Directoire
De son visage peremptoire
(OEil bleu lavande et teint citron).
PUISQUE le mauvais temps vous condamne &
Puisque vous meprisez desormais les romans,
Puisque pour mon bonheur vous n'avez pas d'amant,
Et puisque ce mois d'aout s'obstine impunement
A jouer les decembre.
Je griffonne pour vous ces vers sans queue ni tete,
Sans rime, ou peu s'en faut, en tout cas sans raison,
Que j'intitulerai dans mes ceuvres completes:
" Discours pour une amie qui garde la maison
Par un jour de tempete."
Je ne sais la-dessus si nous sentons de meme,
Mais quand je suis ainsi reveur et paresseux,
Quand il pleut dans mon coeur comme il pleut dans -
MURE et charmante epiciere
Au corsage gonfle,
Et vous, jolie garde-barriere,
Aux bras nus et muscles,
Institutrice aux yeux mi-clos,
Aux robes citadines,
Vous qui possediez un piano
Et de longues mains fines,
Boulangere a qui les ecus
Ne coutaient certes guere,
Car vous vous mettiez au-dessus
Des prejuges vulgaires,
Ah! que vos charmes villageois
Nous furent done utiles
Pour vaincre le cafard sournois
De ces journees hostilesl
Accoudes a votre comptoir
Et parlant pour nous-memes,
Nous vous disions nos longs espoirs
Et nos vastes problemes.
Vous n'avez pas souvent compris,
Mais soyez bien tranquilles,
Nos belles amies de Paris
Ne sont pas plus habiles.
L'homme croit toujours emouvoir
La femme qu'il desire:
Elle n'est pour lui qu'un miroir
Dans lequel il s'admire,
Et quand Margot, Pair resigne,
Subit nos hypotheses,
Elle vaut bien la Sevigne,
Pourvu qu'elle se taise.
DEMAIN, depart <k la brigade:
La cornemuse et le tambour
Donneront la derniere aubade
A ces fugitives amours.
Les montagnards aux beaux genoux,
Qui mimaient la danse du sable
Avec des chants graves et doux
Vont danser la ronde du Diable.
La Victoire, un jour, les cherchant,
Les trouvera trois pieds sous terre,
Mais par ces fermes et ces champs
Flottera leur ombre legere.
Et dans nos villages des Flandres .
CHANSON DU COMTE DE DORSET
EN cet instant, belles personnes,
Un adolescent bien poudre
A coup sur pres de vous fredonne
I/a chanson que vous adorez.
Fa, do, sol, re.
En caressant ses cheveux lisses
Avec des gestes manieres,
II vous fait des yeux en coulisse
Et des regards enamoures.
Fa, do, sol, re.
La vague cependant balance
Notre vieux bateau delabre,
Le vent qui siffle avec violence
Chante notre Miserere.
Fa, do, sol, re.
En vain, pour conjurer I'image
D'un sort, helas! trop assure^
Accroches a nos bastingages,
Nous fredonnons desesperes.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Pousses vers les sombres royaumes
Par votre oubli premature,
Le plus lamentable des psaumes
Chante en notre coeur ulcere:
Fa, do, sol, re.
Quoi? Votre ame etait si petite
Et votre amour si mesure?
Vous avez oublie si vite
Que ce fut notre air prefere,
Fa, do, sol, re.
En semblable cas, les Romaincs
Restaient pres du foyer sacre
Et chantaient en filant la laine
Des hymnes aux dieux ignores.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Ne pouvez-vous faire comme elles?
Oh! dites que vous le voudrez
Et qu'en des amours eternelles
Pour nous seuls vous vous garderez.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Car si vous etes inconstantes
Comme ces flots desempares,
Craignez qu'un jour le doux andante
Ne devienne un Dies ira.
Fa, do, sol, re.
Tu Pas dit, 6 Pascal, le nez de Cleopatre,
S'il cut ete plus court . . . nous n'en serions pas la.
Croyez pas que je moralise,
Si je vous envoie ces bobards,
C'est que notre mess analyse
Ce soir la question du hasard .
Pourquoi me fermes-tu les yeux
Lorsque tu me baises la bouche?
LE jardin provincial s'endort dans le soir
Un violon d'enfant joue " J'ai du bon
Les cloches lentement tintent; Pon peut entendre
Vibrer dans Pair lointain le bruit sourd des combats.
Une etoile s'allume en un ciel qui grisaille;
Un arbre aux fins rameaux sur 1'occident dessine
Un croquis japonais que la lune termine;
Une voix chante; un chien aboie; 1'ombre tressaille.
La vie semble si douce en ce calme vallon
Que si Phomme n'avait, helas ! trop de memoire,
Par un tel soir paisible il pourrait presque croire
Que ce monde menteur est Poeuvre d'un Dieu bon.
Cependant, par dela ces collines flexibles
Et sous ce meme ciel au calme decevant,
A quelques lieues d'ici, par ce beau soir paisible
Les portes de Penfer s'ouvrent pour des vivants.
PQ Maurois, Andre*
2625 The silence of Colonel
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